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NASA Space

NASA Tackles Ethics of Deep-Space Exploration 456

TheTony writes "With long-term projects like manned Mars exploration on the horizon, NASA has begun discussing previously taboo subjects. Ethical and practical questions involving illness, death, genetic profiling, and astronaut relations and behavior in space need to be addressed, as NASA begins to consider new policies with these extended missions in mind." From the article: "One topic that is evidently too hot to handle: How do you cope with sexual desire among healthy young men and women during a mission years long?"
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NASA Tackles Ethics of Deep-Space Exploration

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  • by mapkinase ( 958129 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @06:52AM (#18954277) Homepage Journal

    How do you cope with sexual desire among healthy young men and women during a mission years long?
    The answer [] Volume 7, Book 62, Number 3 (Sahih Bukhari)

    Narrated 'Alqama:

    While I was with Abdullah, 'Uthman met him at Mina and said, "O Abu 'Abdur-Rahman ! I have something to say to you." So both of them went aside and 'Uthman said, "O Abu 'Abdur-Rahman! Shall we marry you to a virgin who will make you remember your past days?" When 'Abdullah felt that he was not in need of that, he beckoned me (to join him) saying, "O 'Alqama!" Then I heard him saying (in reply to 'Uthman), "As you have said that, (I tell you that) the Prophet once said to us, 'O young people! Whoever among you is able to marry, should marry, and whoever is not able to marry, is recommended to fast, as fasting diminishes his sexual power.
    So the answer is clear: if men and women go on a long flight, they either should marry each other, or men should fast (in that case men and women should be segregated on different spaceships).

  • Re:Easy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by PopeOptimusPrime ( 875888 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @06:54AM (#18954287)
    Sex raises some interesting questions:
    What about space pregnancy?
    Do they have coat-hangers and back-alleys in space?
  • Re:No sex please... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mi ( 197448 ) <> on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @06:58AM (#18954317) Homepage Journal

    Put something in their tea. I believe they used bromide to suppress the sexual urges of soldiers during the first world war.

    That only worked, because there weren't many females in close proximity. If you interact with them daily, no chemical will help much.

    Personally, I think, they should pick swingers [] for the mission — there will be no reproductive sex on board, so the partners need no particular attachment to each other (as parents-to-be should have). Swingers, who change partners easily, supposedly, can enjoy the physical aspect of it without "drama"...

    Finding capable astronauts, who are also into swinging, may be difficult, though...

  • by DynaSoar ( 714234 ) * on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @07:12AM (#18954403) Journal
    Healthy men and women don't have a problem dealing with it. NASA seems to be the one with the problem. Let the healthy young men and women radio down "Houston, you have a problem down there. Deal with it. Now mind your own fucking business," and then shut off the cameras. Jesus H Christ on a pogo stick, NASA proudly shows off every new version of the zero G toilet, and they expect people to shit in it with nothing but a paper thin wall and a few inches between them and the rest of the crew, but the very thought of those same people fucking sends them into a tizzy. That's some sick and twisted thinking. I wouldn't trust them to tell me what I should do about my sex life. How the hell can these people talk about colonizing planets but have so much trouble with people making babies, or at least practising at it?
  • by blahplusplus ( 757119 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @07:27AM (#18954483)
    These questions are proof positive that humans are still immature... the truth is you make it an ethical requirement of an requirement to be an astronaut to not bow to animal prejudices, and by animal prejudices I mean drama nad political bullshit, not going without sex.

    To develop programs to rid people of nervous system agitation and make people face their fears and prejudices and understand the source of their likes / dislikes, etc:

    --Develop programs that expose people to tearing down their dislike / prejudice of others
    --Look into religions and other meditative traditions as binding principles.

    Many people have gone without sex for years for religious and other reasons (will power, etc) it's not as hard as people make it out to be. What needs to be done is making them aware that their animal nervous system (i.e. their "personal likes / dislikes") are not sacred...

    They have to have the wisdom not to temper there spirits... the fact is thats what the really need to do.
  • Re:Couples? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kasin ( 44122 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @07:37AM (#18954545) Homepage
    I work with my wife in the same room, metres away. I am her boss. We are within metres of each other nearly 24 hours a day.

    The secret? Knowing when the other person needs personal space and giving it to them. Same house, different headphones.
  • Re:Easy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by the_womble ( 580291 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @08:28AM (#18954927) Homepage Journal
    More seriously than my other answer, sexual relationships are a lot tricker in a small group in a spaceship than in normal society:

    1) You cannot get away from a person who rejected you
    2) You cannot avoid someone who refuses to accept a rejection
    3) You cannot avoid living and working with some who took a third person from you.
    4) People's sexuality can be affected by unusual conditions.

    The best solution is probably to use stable couples for really long missions (months to years), but that makes it harder to recruit the best. Even then if things do go wrong you have a horrible mess.

    Psychological screening is essential in any case - and not just for the headline grabbing sex issue. There are plenty of ways in which a small group at close quarters can go wrong.
  • Re:Good hands (Score:2, Interesting)

    by TrippTDF ( 513419 ) <> on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @09:12AM (#18955453)
    Sex is also like oxygen- it's no big deal until you are not getting any.
  • Send older people (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sphealey ( 2855 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @10:03AM (#18956191)
    (This idea is not mine, but I can't remember where I first saw it)

    The problem with a Mars expedition is not getting there; it is getting there with enough fuel to return the crew to Earth. Solution? Don't return. Rather than sending the young and healthy, send the old and reasonably healthy: men and women in the 60+ age range who are in reasonably good physical shape and who volunteer for a one-way mission. They are told from the outset that they have x years supplies; that more will be sent if possible; and that if the impulse engine is invented someone will come pick them up. Otherwise they should reserve some time early on after landing to locate a suitable site for a cometary and chip out some tombstones, then get to work exploring and naming things after themselves.

    This wouldn't automatically solve the sex problem given today's "more active seniors", but people of that age have less urgent sex drives and are generally better able to negotiate/handle the emotional and interpersonal situations as well.

  • Re:Easy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @10:05AM (#18956217) Homepage Journal
    "Pregnancy should be a definite "NO" - I think. "

    You know..this thread brought to my mind that maybe they should think about things in a different manner.

    Why not on the long trips, send out crews of only gay men? No problems with pregnancy. They still have male not much a chance of someone holding out on someone else for long....etc. I think it would be easier to find guys that could deal with sex without intimacy and all the problems that come with that. And there would be none of the problems that females might have with their periods, etc.

    I dunno...sounds strange, but, it might be something to look at...might solve the problems everyone is discussing here with pregnancy prevention, and relationship issues.

    But, man, if they did this...well, I remember all the jokes that surfaced after the Challenger blew up, imagine the ones coming out about this program.

  • Re:Easy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <slashdot.kadin@x[ ].net ['oxy' in gap]> on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @02:15PM (#18960089) Homepage Journal
    And like I figured if all the men were gay...well, then you have the sex problem taken care of.

    The problem with gay men, or gay women, or really any combination of crews where there's going to be mutual sexual attraction, is that there are serious opportunities for jealousy and infighting.

    I don't know if it was ever proved or not, but there were some theories going around about the accident on the USS Iowa being caused by one sailor who was involved in a homosexual affair with another committing suicide by tossing a cigarette butt into a powder charge. I think the theory was later discredited, or at least there wasn't enough evidence to support it, but I think the fact that it was considered for a time ought to give anyone contemplating a space mission pause. There's no reason why male-male attraction and a jilted gay lover couldn't become just as distracting/destructive as male-female attraction.
  • Re:Lesbians (Score:3, Interesting)

    by abb3w ( 696381 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @02:38PM (#18960511) Journal

    Send a male crew, with a hooker to take care of all their needs.

    One with a degree in Psychiatry, perhaps. You could call the position "Ship's Counselor." And not to be sexist, but a female-dominant crew with a male Ship's Counselor might also work, given sufficient stamina. Of course, the article also mentions needing to deal with death, so bringing another along would be a logical measure to prevent someone going crazy enough to screw the dead hooker. Come to that, NASA traditionally uses triple redundancy systems when practical....

    Slightly more seriously, a Psychiatrist or Sexologist (either with an MD) to cover such, er, duties(?) isn't completely insane. For long missions with limited crew, MDs are certainly one area where having some personnel overlap may be desirable. However, finding MD specialists comfortable with localized promiscuity and in sufficient health to handle astronaut training makes for a bit of a challenge. Starting with writing the job description.

  • Why not..? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by DerCed ( 155038 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @03:24PM (#18961187)
    Why not just send professional sex workers (a.k.a prostitutes) with the crew?
  • Re:A tricky subject. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mal-2 ( 675116 ) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @01:29AM (#18968371) Homepage Journal

    A friend of mine is an astrophysicist and participated in the great neutrino hunt a couple of decades ago in a mine shaft in Alaska during the winter. One of the colleagues died, but they were shut in until weather allowed for a helicopter pickup, so they ended up storing the colleague in the meat freezer.

    This is also what is done if someone dies on a cruise ship -- the body is kept in a freezer until the next port. There is no morgue, and although there is a doctor's office, the freezer there is NOT big enough to keep a body (unless doctor's freezers have grown at the same rate as the ships themselves). And no they don't take out all the food first, there would be nowhere to put it. I'm sure they move what they can, if only to prevent the repeated opening of the freezer, but if you're keeping the body on ice it would be because you're a day or more from the next port, and that means your food stores are probably near capacity.

    Accidental death and death by illness will happen no matter where you go, but you might be surprised how many people choose to off themselves during a cruise. It can be hard to tell after the fact if someone fell overboard because he was drunk, or if he got drunk to make the jump somewhat easier, or if he was pushed in some sort of drunken brawl, but I would suspect that the single leading cause of death on cruise ships (at least among passengers) is suicide, followed closely by misadventure.

    There have been plenty of cases where someone fell overboard and survived. I witnessed the tail end of one such rescue. The man had fallen from a low-level balcony, probably 40 feet above waterline, and was plucked out of the water with little more than a broken nose. That broken nose was probably acquired after being picked up by a speedboat, as a little parting gift for his asshattery. But if you fall from the Lido deck without making an effort to position yourself (cross your legs, cross your arms, and pray you go in feet first and just break your ankles) you can expect to go SPLAT exactly the way you would if you hit concrete.


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