April 24, 2013

Sex In Space?

It is one of the most popular questions fielded by astronauts: Have astronauts ever had sex in space? The official word from NASA is that it has yet to happen. While this may draw skeptical responses, the reality is that scandalous acts aboard spacecraft would be nearly impossible.

If for no other reason, the astronauts are kept on a very tight schedule, and are monitored on a near constant basis. In other words, privacy is not plentiful during space travel. Also, there are issues of professionalism. Space travel is inherently dangerous, and astronauts are expected to maintain focus and not engage in activities that could distract from their duties.

But does that mean that it will never happen? The question has gained new interest as several companies and agencies, including NASA, are exploring the possibility of sending astronauts to Mars. Such a mission would be on the order of a year and a half (or more), and would require living in tight quarters for extended periods of time. Various proposals are being considered, while at least one scenario proposes sending a husband and wife team to the Red Planet. In this case, the issue is almost certainly to arise.

However, the mechanics of engaging in intimate activities in a zero gravity environment can be, well, tricky to say the least. The primary issue is that without the pull of gravity, it is challenging to brace or leverage oneself. Even the slightest push can send you sailing across the space craft.

When astronauts normally exercise, they have to be strapped into the equipment. This would be necessary during intimate relations as well, though this doesn’t exactly scream romance.

Forgetting for a moment how difficult sex in space would be, the fact is that it should be possible. The greater challenge is procreation. While nothing would prevent the act of sex, it is unlikely that a woman would be able to become pregnant, or is she did, the fetus could not survive.

Gravity plays a major role in fetal development, and in order for bone structure to form properly a gravity environment is needed. Additionally, with little protection in outer space or on the surface of Mars astronauts are exposed to significant amounts of cosmic radiation. Such radiation could also hinder fetal development, as well as pose other health risks after birth.

It is no surprise, then, that the missions being proposed are seeking couples beyond childbearing age, to mitigate any possibility of accidental impregnation. So while man seeks to venture beyond the planet Earth, there are still significant hurdles that we must face.

Image Credit: Shutterstock, iurii

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