42

In the Last Jedi movie, there is a scene where

her spaceship is taken down, Princess Leia is thrown into outer space, and seen floating there, frozen.

However, she manages to survive this, while any ordinary human being couldn't.

How did she manage this? Is this done by using the Force?

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    To be fair, there's no reason to suspect that an ordinary human would fail to survive a brief exposure to vacuum (although not as long as Leia was exposed). The lack of pressure would give you medical issues (like the 'bends' divers risk when they ascend too quickly), but that would be the only major problem until you had to breathe (and couldn't). – Jeff Dec 26 '17 at 15:57
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    @Jeff less than a minute, according to this and many other similar articles. And losing consciousness much before that. – Shadow Wizard Dec 26 '17 at 16:30
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    @ShadowWizard yeah, without the force, you got maybe 10-15 seconds to do anything, which probably includes dumping the air in your lungs to prevent it from bursting them. Leah was not in space for very long, and with their medical tech, she would likely survive the short exposure. That leaves the question of if she could remain conscious as long as she did before she used the force to pull herself to safety. Considering she opened her eyes without much damage, Its likely she subconsciously used the force to protect herself from the beginning, which would also explain her very quick recovery. – Ryan Dec 26 '17 at 17:08
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    I'm more concerned that she wasn't left behind when she was blown out of a ship that was under acceleration, unless somehow the inertial field of the ship extends beyond the hull. – jeffronicus Dec 26 '17 at 21:19
46

Leia used the force, brought out by her survival instinct.

Survival in space is something that seems within the grasp of Jedi to do, as is evidenced by Plo Koon in The Clone Wars

I can withstand the pressure for some time

While it's unclear whether or not this is a skill specific to the Jedi, it seems to be with their grasp. Although Leia is not a Jedi, she is evidently force-capable and may have been able to use the force to keep herself alive.

Rian Johnson confirms that this is something to do with the force, related to a survival instinct, like Luke in ESB

I liked the idea that it’s not Luke concentrating, reaching for the lightsaber; it’s an instinctual survival thing, like when you hear stories of a parent whose toddler is caught under a car and they get superhuman strength, or a drowning person clawing their way to the surface. It’s basically just her not being done with the fight yet.

I wanted it to happen [for Carrie] and I knew it was going to be a stretch. It’s a big moment, and I’m sure it will land different ways for different people, but for me it felt like a really emotionally satisfying thing to see. Inverse - ‘Last Jedi’ Director Explains All the New Force Powers (and the Leia Scene)

This is re-confirmed in an interview with IGN:

“This is a reflex action on her part,” Last Jedi writer-director Rian Johnson explained. “It’s the equivalent in my head of when you hear about parents, toddlers are caught under cars, and they suddenly get Hulk strength and can lift it up. Or a drowning person climbing their way to the surface." ...

“It’s instinctual, her use of it. It’s the opposite of when Luke Force-pulls the saber in Hoth. It isn’t like, ‘I’m going to try and do this.’ For her it’s just an instinctual thing of, ‘I’m not done yet. I’m not giving up. I’m pulling myself back in.’”
Star Wars: The Last Jedi Director explains Leia's relationship to the Force.

Creatures such as the Purrgil were able to survive the vacuum of space even though they weren't Force-Sensitive, how they could isn't clear, but they were also able to jump into hyperspace.


Out-of-universe

After Carrie Fisher's untimely death, Kathleen Kennedy and Rian Johnson had discussed changing the scene to make it so that Leia died "drowned in moonlight" as she had so famously wished for, however they had decided not to change the scenes and to leave the survival intact.

“We were a little ways into postproduction when she passed away, and so we had it mostly put together,” Johnson said. “We didn’t really end up changing it. And that includes adding lines back in that we had cut out or anything like that.”
Vanity Fair - Star Wars: The Last Jedi—What Happened to Leia?

The decision to not make the death so in-line with Fisher's iconic quote may have changed the beauty of the scene out-of-universe, but Fisher still had a role to play In-Universe. It also makes it clear that as beautiful as the parallel is, it’s not certain that this was the intention of the scene, as it had been filmed before her death.

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    Better mention it's copied from this answer on similar question on other SE site. :) – Shadow Wizard Dec 26 '17 at 14:35
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    @ShadowWizard, yes it's copied from my own answer on another site :) – Edlothiad Dec 26 '17 at 14:38
  • Those were the easiest reputations anyone has earned ;) (considering you already had written this answer in movies.se) – HardikT Dec 27 '17 at 11:32
  • @Trivedi I did have to do 2 minutes of research to find new quotes from new interviews, but yes ;P – Edlothiad Dec 27 '17 at 14:05
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    @TylerH I apologise, I hadn’t edited the title after it’s original version, where it was mostly speculation on what we see Master Plo-Koon do in the Clone Wars, but I definitely should now, thanks for the reminder – Edlothiad Dec 27 '17 at 15:44
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It is possible for humans to survive exposure to the void of space, for a duration on the order of minutes. However, you would be unconscious pretty quickly and in need of rescue.

(Warning: This answer references real-world animal experimentation and death, and contains spoilers for the last issue of the 2015-2016 run of the Darth Vader comic.)

  1. See this article by Scientific American: Survival in Space Unprotected Is Possible--Briefly

    [...] animal experiments and human accidents have shown that people can likely survive exposure to vacuum conditions for at least a couple of minutes.

    It goes on to mention some experiments that were done, on dogs and chimpanzees:

    For example, one 1965 study by researchers at the Brooks Air Force Base in Texas showed that dogs exposed to near vacuum—one three-hundred-eightieth of atmospheric pressure at sea level—for up to 90 seconds always survived. [...] However, dogs held at near vacuum for just a little bit longer—two full minutes or more—died frequently.

    Chimpanzees can withstand even longer exposures. In a pair of papers from NASA in 1965 and 1967, researchers found that chimpanzees could survive up to 3.5 minutes in near-vacuum conditions with no apparent cognitive defects, as measured by complex tasks months later. One chimp that was exposed for three minutes, however, showed lasting behavioral changes. Another died shortly after exposure, likely due to cardiac arrest.

    However, that article explicitly calls out that you would need to be rescued:

    Not that you would remain conscious long enough to rescue yourself, but if your predicament was accidental, there could be time for fellow crew members to rescue and repressurize you with few ill effects.

  2. In the Darth Vader (2015-2016) comic by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca, Dr. Aphra is thrown out of an airlock, and is successfully reanimated after having been exposed to the vacuum of space for a short time (There is enough time for Aphra to drift away significantly from the Executor). As there is no sign that Aphra is force-sensitive, it is clear that ordinary humans, in the Star Wars universe, can survive some amount of exposure to the vacuum of space. (Citing Triple-Zero: "No, I'm not exactly sure how long a human can stay alive while exposed to hard vacuum.")

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    A few problems with that study compared to this movie; 1) Leia was a very old lady, nowhere near peak physical fitness. 2) she was victim to rapid depressurization. Those experiments were likely done in stepped intervals of depressurization. 3) not only was her depressurization rapid, it was also explosive. 4) In the experiments on chimps, and the one time it happened to a NASA employee unexpectedly, they were unconscious after about 10 seconds. tl;dr if this is to be believed then it has to be pretty much entirely due to strong levels of Force sensitivity. – TylerH Dec 27 '17 at 6:26
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    @TylerH However this changes Leia's force usage from "OMG she created a force field as a spacesuit!!" to "the force kept her conscious for longer than normal" – slebetman Dec 27 '17 at 6:51
  • Do you have a link of these experiments on animals from NASA? That purposely exposed them to certain death ? – chicken burger Dec 27 '17 at 15:36
  • @chickenburger sounds like something that can be asked in Skeptics... :) – Shadow Wizard Dec 27 '17 at 17:14
  • Soyoz 11. "Flight recorder data from the single cosmonaut outfitted with biomedical sensors showed cardiac arrest occurred within 40 seconds of pressure loss. [...] less than 20 seconds would have passed before the effects of oxygen starvation made it impossible for them to function" - and that was a malfunctioning valve, not instant depressurization due to complete hull failure. – Peter Dec 30 '17 at 23:20
2

Leia most likely used the Force. And she was not the first one to pull such a stunt. In the fifth issue of the Star Wars: Kanan – The Last Padawan comic book series, Kanan Jarrus, a Jedi Padawan Caleb Dume at the time, and an Order 66 survivor, was caught by a group of stormtroopers. As they were about to execute him, Jarrus called for the Force and opened the airlock door of the Imperial Gozanti-class cruiser, resulting himself to be ejected into space.

enter image description here

Jarrus floated in vacuum for a period of time, and even the stormtroopers assumed he was dead. He was revived, however, in the hands of his friend, Janus Kasmir, soon after being brought onboard his ship.

enter image description here

The event took place shortly after Order 66 was issued, which would make it around 19 BBY, and about 53 years before Leia was blown out into space from the Raddus in The Last Jedi. It proves a human with the apprentice-level training in the Force can survive in vacuum, in some circumstances.

  • And Kanan did the same thing as Leia (pulling himself back into a ship after being thrust into space suddenly) early on in the 3rd season of Rebels. So it's not like we've never seen this thing happen before. – Elven Padawan Mar 22 '18 at 5:37
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The universal Force decided to reanimate her and keep her alive so that she could lead the rebels away thus keeping the Balance in the Force. Don't forget, the Midi-Chlorians are super strong within her life-force giving her superhuman powers when they see fit!

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    This answer needs support from canon sources. The accepted answer by Edlothiad is an excellent example of a properly supported answer. – Bellatrix Mar 21 '18 at 23:34

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