“It’s absolutely true that among certain rock-rat tribes in the outer regions, getting blind drunk and running stark naked through hard vacuum in honor of their culture-hero is a prominent local sport, wager, and test of endurance.
“Of course, it’s also true that isolation-madness, poorly-tuned life support neural syndrome, and taking all the drugs when stationside are the most prominent local medical conditions…”
“…and the vacuum is hard out today.”
A joke so old it’s evolved sophoncy independently from the primordial slime, but interface vehicle pilots evidently have to say something about ambient conditions at the highport. It seems that talking about the weather comes pre-hardwired into every sophont species’ cognome – whether or not there is any.
– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary
Explosive Decompression: No. Just no. (In the trope sense. Obviously it can happen in the technical sense.)
Well, with one exception. The trope quite correctly notes that it can happen if you have a really high pressure gradient, say, 8-9 atm to 1 atm. As such, some people from planets with very thick atmospheres (say, ciseflish) can suffer some serious abaryic trauma if their suit decompresses or if taken out of it – albeit rarely to the extent of literally exploding.
But whether that applies or not, it is a universal truism that sudden decompression sucks.
Continuous Decompression: Averted in exactly the hard-SFnal ways one might expect it to be. Specifically, among other things:
(a) Explosive decompression be explosive, yo. Specifically, the air doesn’t hang around producing wind and blowing things around; it leaves. But also:
(b) Most decompression is not explosive. Mostly, the air just leaks out the hole until the hole is plugged, and does not in fact lead to immediate inability to breathe (although the pressure is continuously dropping) or air currents big enough to such everything through a hole smaller than it is. It just sets off alarms and makes unpleasant shrieking sounds while people get patch kits and close spacetight doors.
Especially if it’s, say, a bullet hole in the window of a cylinder habitat, which even if left untended with all the doors open would lead to complete depressurization in, y’know, a few days. At the fastest.
“Yeah, vacuum won’t kill you. Should you find yourself falling free out of a big hole in your ship, stay sharp, and keep your eyes shut and your mouth open the way they teach you when you go out for your S-license, and you ought to live through it. You’ll get a full-body bruise. You’ll freeze slowly if you’re out there long enough – and if you’re in the sunlight, you’ll burn at the same time. You’ll swell up from the pressure differential, and that hurts fifty times more than you ever imagined anything might hurt before, unless you’ve gone swimming naked through molten rock sometime.”
“But if you grew up anywhere half-civilized, your hemocules’ll keep you going for a good hour, a bit less if you thrash around. Plenty of time for someone to get a line on you – or, if everyone around’s got their own problems, for that mindcast carrier you’d better have to start looking friendly.”
“…from experience, kid. Did you think I was born with this face?”
Can Breathe In Space: Technically, you can do this by using a vector-control “envelope” to hold air in around you (although you will still need some means of replenishing it if you plan to do this for long, special provisions like oxygen-carrying hemocules aside). While useful to avoid ebullism and other pressure/temperature syndromes if you should find yourself in a decompressing compartment, needing to leap from airlock to airlock, etc., and it’s a lovely showy party piece… most people still prefer actual vacuum suits if they plan on stepping outside.