Can someone explain the science behind this? also i feel like in movies the ship always crumples inward, but shouldn't the only force at work be the pressure from the molecules of air in one connected section going into the airlock? thus if anything I feel like it would expand outward, not inward.

But regardless, I'm not sure I understand what is going on.

there are similar things though for submarines I think, so I feel like somewhere there should be a link to a detailed explanation. Or one of you kind people can help me with my question.

  • $\begingroup$ This would simply not happen in reality because of pressure sensitive interlock mechanisms. Real engineers are not quite as stupid as movie-script writers need theirs to be to create suspense. Anyway, keep enjoying the nonsense on the silver screen because real spaceflight is, on average, about as suspenseful as watching paint dry. $\endgroup$
    – CuriousOne
    Jun 19, 2015 at 7:10
  • $\begingroup$ @CuriousOne ok, shoot it down :) physics.stackexchange.com/questions/190328/… $\endgroup$
    – user81619
    Jun 19, 2015 at 20:02

1 Answer 1


For submarines, it depends on the depth. In the worst case, the one you always see in the movies, the submarine is at the bottom of the Atlantic and the water will always rush in, the only way you could stop it is to increase the air pressure inside the submarine to match the outside pressure of water, which would make life more than a little uncomfortable for the crew.

Effects of increased pressure on human body demonstrates the effects of the increased air pressure on the crew.

In a spaceship, the pressure difference is not as extreme, and although the air would escape, I doubt that the walls of the spaceship would buckle, as they do in the movies.

The crew would still be dead from lack of air though, unless they fixed the leak quickly.

A last point to consider though is, if enough air rushed out of the escape capsule, it may easily act like a small rocket motor, pushing the capsule away from the main body of the spaceship.

Again, a bad day for the crew.

  • $\begingroup$ ok that was what i was wondering. since when does metal actually buckle from normal pressure air moving out. The only way i could see that happening is if the air was moving really fast. but why would it move out at such a super fast speed relative to the spacestation..the only force pushing it out is the natural force of diffusion, so that shouldn't be enough to destroy an airlock. $\endgroup$ Jun 19, 2015 at 6:38
  • $\begingroup$ Only real thing that matters is the difference in air pressure between inside and out. Buckling metal is pure drama, what you go to the movie for:) $\endgroup$
    – user81619
    Jun 19, 2015 at 6:41
  • $\begingroup$ Just for completeness on your question, for submarines at low enough depth, you could end up with a crushed submarine. Then the movies would be true to real life. $\endgroup$
    – user81619
    Jun 19, 2015 at 6:57

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