Astronauts are tethered to the craft when conducting spacewalks. Image credit: NASA
Asked by David Todd
Depending on the exact scenario, probably not much. Without external forces an untethered astronaut would continue to orbit and move round the Earth at the same speed as the space station or spacecraft they had been previously tethered to. However, if the tether and astronaut weren’t experiencing any unexpected external forces it is unlikely that the tether would just break.
It is feasible to imagine a situation where the astronaut is being pulled away from the spacecraft and the tether snaps under the strain. In this case, they would likely move in the direction they were being pulled. This would alter their orbit depending on the size of the force.
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