I've been working my way through the show "The Expanse" (I'm about midway through season 3) and have just started reading Leviathan Wakes.

Both the book and the show seem to have a lot of casual references both on- and off-screen to "getting spaced" where you toss someone in an airlock and then press some buttons from the inside and the outer door opens and they die of vaccum exposure.

But why would it even make sense to be able to open the outer door of an airlock from inside the ship/station? Wouldn't it be more natural to build it with the controls for the outer door inside the airlock? No scene ever seems to feature someone "hotwiring" the airlock controls or anything like this. It just seems to be a built-in feature. What's the in-world explanation for designing airlocks this way?

  • 3
    there's almost definitely both - you need to be able to open the outer airlock from inside to let people in, and open it from inside to let yourself out. In spacing someone, I assume the captain overrides the inner controls and the safety features Feb 17, 2021 at 18:59
  • 3
    If it were designed differently, you wouldn't be able to escalate drama when required using the narrative device of spacing someone
    – cryptarch
    Feb 18, 2021 at 1:18

1 Answer 1


Spacing is a fairly gruesome way to kill someone, but if you have enough control to throw them in an airlock, you almost certainly have other options available to you to achieve the same end. Preventing someone inside the ship from opening the outer door will not stop someone getting killed.

There may be legitimate reasons to open an airlock from inside the shop. Someone on their way back with a punctured suit - open the outer door before they arrive, and they can directly enter the lock without any delay. It also gives an option to expel inert material without having to have someone suited up inside the lock at the time.

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