The shape of a couple hugging with stars.

162984080

The shape of a couple hugging with stars.

Photo by: Tim Robberts

Tim Robberts

It’s Time to Study Space Sexology

Scientists say the time has come to study sex in space if humanity will ever stand a chance at surviving on other planets.

March 09, 2022

If humans want to move to Mars, like Elon Musk hopes to do by 2050, a growing number of scientists argue that studying reproductive health in space is essential to humanity’s survival.

While frog eggs have been artificially inseminated in space, “no research has explored intimate relationships, nor the human experience of sexual functions and wellbeing, in space,” said Simon Dubé, a psychologist from Concordia University.

After shying away from the subject for years, experts think NASA is opening up to the idea of studying space sexology. “We are primarily concerned with ensuring crew members’ health and safety in space for long periods of time,” a representative from NASA said. “Should a future need for more in-depth study on reproductive health in space be identified, NASA would take the appropriate steps.”

BERLIN, GERMANY DECEMBER 01:  SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk poses on the red carpet of the Axel Springer Award 2020 on December 01, 2020 in Berlin, Germany.  (Photo by Britta Pedersen-Pool/Getty Images)

1229893511

SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk wants to send 1 million people to Mars by 2050.

Photo by: Pool

Pool

SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk wants to send 1 million people to Mars by 2050.

But proponents of space sexology, argue the time to study extraterrestrial intimacy is now. “Rocket science may take us to outer space,” write the authors of Love and Rockets. “But it will be human relationships that determine if we thrive as a spacefaring civilization.”

Space travel could impact reproduction in a number of ways– namely radiation. Astronauts’ bodies are subject to a lot more radiation than the average person on earth (we earthlings are protected from 99% of this radiation by our planets’ atmosphere and magnetic field). Radiation can damage DNA causing cancer or genetic mutations that can be passed down to offspring.

“If you look at the list of organs sensitive to radiation damage, the gonads, the ovaries and testes, are always in the top two or three,” said Joseph Tash, a professor who studies animal reproduction in space.

The second source of reproductive danger to humans in space is less understood– microgravity. While the lack of gravity in space allows astronauts to do somersaults in the air and play zero-gravity baseball, it also affects their biology. It’s well known that astronauts lose muscle mass in space, but what about the effects of microgravity that haven’t been studied?

In 2010 and 2011, researchers took mice to the International Space Station. Some of the female mice stopped ovulating, and others lost their corpus luteum. Without it, a mammal could get pregnant, but the pregnancy would be unlikely to stick.

Jan Davis and Mark Lee, the first married couple in space, aboard the shuttle Endeavor.   (Photo by NASA/Roger Ressmeyer/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

635238705

Jan Davis and Mark Lee, the first married couple in space, aboard the shuttle Endeavor.

Photo by: NASA

NASA

Jan Davis and Mark Lee, the first married couple in space, aboard the shuttle Endeavor.

So why hasn’t NASA studied sex in space?

Emphasizing that she was not speaking on behalf of NASA, Virginia Wotring, professor at Baylor University’s Center for Space Medicine, said, “It’s never been one of NASA’s missions to colonize. Yet. The way the budgets are constrained, you can’t afford to do research on something you don’t need. There’s all kinds of things we should do before a long-duration kind of mission, but [we] haven’t, because we haven’t needed it.”

Intergalactic sexual function isn’t the only biological question that remains unanswered. If a human trip to Mars is in our future, researchers will need more data to understand the effects of long-term space travel, or even residency, on the human body.

Next Up

MOXIE: Carbon Dioxide Turns Into Oxygen on Mars

Recently, Perseverance produced 5.4 grams of oxygen on Mars through an instrument named MOXIE. Can humans live on Mars with the help of this device? Let’s find out.

Evidence for Water on Mars Might be Clay Instead (Bummer!)

What’s shiny and lives under the Martian ice? No, it’s not a joke. It’s clay. Just…clay.

Ingenuity Takes First Flight on Mars

In a historic first, Ingenuity successfully flew on the Red Planet. The Mars helicopter was in the air for about 40 seconds.

NASA Has Announced Plans for the Next Decade of Space Missions, And It’s Awesome

Personally speaking, I feel like we’ve been focusing on Mars a little bit too much recently. Sure, the Red Planet is all sorts of awesome – so awesome it may have once been a home for life – but with more than half a dozen orbiters, landers, and rovers, it’s certainly got its due.

Countdown to the Mars Rover Landing

The Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover and Mars Helicopter, Ingenuity, are closer to Mars than ever before as touch down at the Jezero crater is scheduled for February 18, 2021. Let’s take a look back at its launch and learn how it will land on the Red Planet.

Meet Ingenuity: NASA’s First Mars Helicopter

Perseverance with Ingenuity strapped to its belly launched on July 30, 2020, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The Mars Rover and Mars Helicopter safely landed on the dusty surface at 3:55P ET on February 18, 2021, after traveling nearly 292.5 million miles.

It’s Time to Return to the Land of the Ice Giants

30 years--It’s been over 30 years since the Voyager 2’s historic flyby of Uranus and Neptune, the outermost and most mysterious planets in the solar system. It’s time to go back.

Mars is Getting International

Things are getting a little crowded at the red planet.

NASA is using Navajo Language to Name Rocks and Soil on Mars

NASA’s Perseverance team is working in tandem with the Navajo Nation to use their native language in defining rocks and soil found on Mars. 50 words have been approved to name these landmarks.

How Common are Water Worlds in the Galaxy?

If Kevin Costner wanted to make a sequel, he’s got plenty of opportunities. Water is by far the most common molecule in the universe. It’s made of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. Hydrogen is element number 1 (both on the period table and in abundance), and has been hanging around since the first 15 minutes of the Big Bang. Oxygen is forged in the hearts of sun-like stars, and spreads around when those stars die and turn themselves inside out. And since sun-like stars are also very popular, oxygen gets quite a boost.

Related To: