In "The Cold Equations" by Tom Godwin, what might happen to Marilyn?

Expert Answers
Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Tom Godwin's short story "The Cold Equation," authorities have created the interstellar regulation declaring, "Any stowaway discovered in an EDS shall be jettisoned immediately following discovery." This is because the Emergency Dispatch Ships needed to be small and lightweight in design so that they could speedily and effectively reach the distant colonies needing emergency assistance. Due to the necessary small and lightweight design, EDSs can only carry enough fuel needed to reach their destinations. Extra weight created by stowaways would burn up fuel to fast, ensuring the EDS would crash, costing many lives. Therefore, one stowaway must lose his/her life in order to save the lives of many.

Since that's the case, Marilyn will be jettisoned from Barton's EDS. Upon discovering that she was only a young, naive girl, he tried to negotiate a rescue mission with Commander Delhart, but Commander Delhart gave Barton the reply he was expecting, an emergency stop made by the hyperspace cruiser would cost many lives. However, Barton was able to calculate how much time she could safely stay on-board if he reduced his declaration speed and negotiate with the commander to permit her to stay for that long.

Once jettisoned into outer space, since she will not be wearing a space suit, scientists report that, in the vacuum of outer space, her lungs will expand, causing tissue tearing; she will lose vision as the liquid surrounding her eyes boils off in seconds; she will lose consciousness and blood circulation and die of asphyxiation, meaning suffocation. The whole process would take a matter of two minutes.