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Scientist Says NASA Must Study Space Sex 389

Velcroman1 writes "NASA has always been tight lipped on the subject of sex in space — which makes people all the more curious. How would it work? Has anyone done it before? Can a child be conceived in zero-G? With few animal tests (and virtually no human testing), there's been next to no scientific analysis of the issue. Until now. The Journal of Cosmology has published a special issue detailing the mission to Mars, which touches all the bases. In a chapter titled Sex on Mars, Dr. Rhawn Joseph from the Brain Research Laboratory in California discusses everything from the social conditions that would push astronauts to have sex to the possibility of the first child being born on another planet. Such an infant would be the first real Martian — at least by nationality, the researcher pointed out. 'On Mars, the light's going to be different, the gravity will be different, it's a completely different atmosphere,' he said. 'So if you put an infant on Mars, they would adapt to varying degrees of the new environment. And after several generations, you'd have a new species,' he said."
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Scientist Says NASA Must Study Space Sex

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  • by arivanov ( 12034 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @04:10AM (#34858814) Homepage

    Michael Valentine Smith. Martian by mentality, human by heredity.

  • Several? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by asifyoucare ( 302582 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @04:11AM (#34858816)

    after several generations you'd have a new species

    For large values of several.


    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      While you are technically correct, was there any real need to add the insult when correcting an obviously non-native English speaker for a poor choice in words?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cforciea ( 1926392 )
      That was my first thought, too. Even then, the actual evolutionary forces would be such that speciation seems so improbable as to be impossible. The environment for colonists would be almost entirely artificial, and it seems doubtful that the color of light on Mars would significantly impact children's ability to grow to adulthood and procreate themselves, especially not with a sample size that is small enough that it wouldn't also be cross-breeding with Earth's population.

      The only real scenario I can com
      • by DrXym ( 126579 )
        Obviously a few generations are not going to cause speciation, but even in an artificial environment it's not hard to see differences that could cause traits to change over time - light (UV, spectrum), radiation, gravity, length of days & seasons, atmosphere, diet, temperature, lack / presence of other organisms (animals, plants, virii & bacteria) still still all be major changes.

        Those differences mean squat for a single life, but they might mean a lot even over a relatively small number generatio

    • This wouldn't even happen.

      We'd be working very hard to recreate Earth-like conditions on Mars, so the infant would grow accustomed to Earth-like conditions. Otherwise, everyone would die.

      Please, do correct me if I'm wrong, as I'm no expert, but I would have thought that messing with things like atmosphere, diet etc would make the life expectancy of the parents quite short.
    • Not even then (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Speciation will not occur under (presumed) regular interbreeding with the population back home.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      For large values of several.

      Not to mention a non-standard definition of "species." As I seem to recall, the biological definition of "species" simply involves whether or not a male and female can create a sexually viable offspring. Hence, donkeys and horses are different species, because mules (what you get when mating a horse and a donkey) are sterile, but different breeds of dogs (or cats or horses or whatever) aren't considered different species because they do create offspring which create offspring and so on (have your pets spa

    • Seems like a lot of people here know exactly how the mechanism of speciation works. Care to enlighten the rest of us? Maybe you should write to a science journal.
    • by gazbo ( 517111 )
      That jumped out at me as well. And I'm not sure that it is just ambiguity over the meaning of 'several': The way he mentions it right after infants adapting to the different conditions, I think...I think he's actually implying Lamarckian evolution is the driving force.
    • by EdZ ( 755139 )
      Phenotypical adaptations would exhibit within a single generation. Genetic adaptations, if any, would take many thousand generations, and enough to cause speciation would take many times longer than that, even if the effect of immigration from earth were ignored.
    • by Rhaban ( 987410 )

      after several generations you'd have a new species

      For large values of several.


      And only if the individuals less adapted to this environment are killed / not allowed to breed. If there is no natural selection and no artificial selection, apparition of a new species is very unlikely.

  • Soooooo.... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Dexter Herbivore ( 1322345 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @04:12AM (#34858822) Journal
    Did Mars move for you too, baby?
  • I guess I wouldn't mind being the progenitor of a new species...
    also, it would get me out of my mom's basement, and most likely result in meeting girls?

    Sucky part is, I guess they don't have fiber-interweb-tubes on Mars?

    • Re:hmm... (Score:5, Funny)

      by igreaterthanu ( 1942456 ) * on Thursday January 13, 2011 @04:20AM (#34858856)

      I guess I wouldn't mind being the progenitor of a new species... also, it would get me out of my mom's basement, and most likely result in meeting girls?

      Don't count on it. []

      • Haha, I figured you'd be pointing to some article about how to get internet to other planets...So I guess I was mildly surprized at what you where actually linking to :) On an entirely related subject: could you get reasonable (albeit high latency) internet on Mars? and come to think of it, how long would it realistically take for one package to be sent back and forth?
        • Your latency would be ridiculous almost 40 minutes [] but it would be easy enough to get internet there. Although most sites would obviously time out waiting for ACK.
          • Ouch, not worth it I guess :) Or I guess whether or not it is worth it really depends on whether or not there is a willing female astronaut ^_^
          • by DrXym ( 126579 )
            Just don't try and use the internet through Tor or you might die of old age before the page loads.
          • by mcvos ( 645701 )

            You just need a big caching proxy.

            Let's hope Google sets up a server park there soon. Although highly interactive ajaxy features still aren't going to work there.

          • Re:hmm... (Score:5, Interesting)

            by KiloByte ( 825081 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @08:07AM (#34859902)

            TCP wouldn't work, but replacing it is damn straightforward[1]. With that done, even regular http would work, although it would suck due to needing several round trips for referenced CSS/images/subframes/whatnot. The latter is also quite obvious -- many of us could whip up a primitive but working proxy in an hour.

            If bandwidth isn't a concern, it might be better to do a whole-site wget rip and send it in one go.

            [1]. Nearly all complexity in TCP is due to handshaking, retransmissions and adjusting the window. With no handshaking possible and terabyte windows, you can throw most of that away. Adding generous Reed-Solomon codes over the whole message and possibly retransmitting just damaged blocks would be obvious goodies to add, but that's still nothing compared to the mess that current TCP is.

            • Re:hmm... (Score:5, Informative)

              by tibit ( 1762298 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @10:11AM (#34860962)

              TCP is already being transparently recreated at the ends of the link in many satellite internet access systems. The TCP connection is transparently terminated at the uplink side, and re-created at the downlink. Over-the-air uses custom protocols geared towards high latency and dropouts.

          • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

            That depends on the relative position of the two planets. At its closest it's about ten minutes, if I remember what I read about the rovers correctly. But at its farthest, when the planets are on opposite sides of the sun, it will be a LOT longer.

            You're not going to be playing counter strike with anybody on earth.

        • by sznupi ( 719324 )


          With such conditions it seems possible the-thing-we-don't-speak-about will see some renaissance at some point.

          • With such conditions it seems possible the-thing-we-don't-speak-about will see some renaissance at some point.

            AOL? Dear gods.

            • by sznupi ( 719324 )

              Not quite... quite the opposite, actually. The-thing-we-don't-speak-about was sort of brought down, after all, by AOL sponsored variety of September.

              • Doesn't help :p I only ever experienced AOL on a friend's computer in around 2002. I didn't realise that they actually made any useful changes to the internet landscape.

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @04:15AM (#34858832)

    Beware the sand!

  • by sznupi ( 719324 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @04:16AM (#34858844) Homepage

    It's not like "submerged in water" isn't a decent enough approximation (and in fact used by space agencies, but to model different stuff). It's not like humans aren't imaginative, if there's a possibility of some action... (even easier: send slashdotters, we'll do anything) Progress of the pregnancy is another issue of course.

    But you wouldn't have new species if there wasn't much of a selection. Not for the usual meaning of "several"

    • I knew a couple who really wanted to have kids. The woman had difficulty getting pregnant, and then she had some miscarriages. I was in tears when she told me about the experiences. Her husband is a very wealthy man from Altona, near Hamburg in Germany. The homes in Altona make Hollywood mansions look like a trailer park. She told me that she felt pressure to 'produce' a male heir.

      So she took some 'fertility' pills, and a beautiful baby boy came out. But she developed breast cancer six months later

    • I wonder how strongly the fetus' position is dependent on gravity... in a lesser/near-zero gravity environment you might have a much higher percentage of breech births or other positional problems.

  • Sounds like a good job opportunity.

  • by Kokuyo ( 549451 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @04:27AM (#34858876) Journal

    Why would anyone wonder about this? From how I see it (and from what I believe to know about the mechanics involved), why should a child not be conceived in zero-G?

    When a woman orgasms, her cervix dips into (depending on the position) pool of seed the man released, sucking it in. The female anatomy then helps transport the material to where it belongs, where several spermatozoa work together to crack the female egg shell.

    This process is in no way a battle between the little guys to see which is the strongest but a joint effort and the female organism helps them along, too. So while conception might be a bit trickier due to the whole process being slower because of not enough contact with the female anatomy (and thus more time-consuming, possibly to the point where the spermatozoa die before doing their job), I see no reason why it shouldn't be possible.

    • by liamoshan ( 1283930 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @05:05AM (#34859028)

      From how I see it (and from what I believe to know about the mechanics involved)...

      When a woman orgasms, her cervix dips into (depending on the position) pool of seed the man released, sucking it in.

      Wait, this is how you think sex works? The man orgasms, sex continues, then some time later, the female orgasms and becomes pregnant?!?

      If pregnancy depended on the woman orgasming after the man, the accidental pregnancy rate would be close to zero

      • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @10:12AM (#34860972) Journal
        The GP is correct (but ambigously worded), the cervix dips into the semen and sucks it up, it starts doing so before the male orgasms and it continues to do so well after the act of sex is finished. However I don't think that the female orgasm is required for the cervix to start doing it's job, IIRC the fact that the penis is knocking at the door is enough to trigger the response.
      • by Kokuyo ( 549451 )

        *rolls eyes* it's ONE possible scenario that is supposed to show that a possible way to impregnate a woman without gravity exists. That in turn means it can't be impossible.

        And by the way, seeing as it happens often enough to have become a cliché, what's your beef with a scenario where a male has already ejaculated at the point the female orgasms?

    • by rts008 ( 812749 )

      Why would anyone wonder about this? From how I see it (and from what I believe to know about the mechanics involved), why should a child not be conceived in zero-G?

      Well, I think you are maybe going out on a limb with your assumptions about conception in zero-gee/micro-gravity being easy and a 'no brainer', I have no doubts at all about humans ability to 'adapt, and overcome' any obstacles to getting laid...anywhere, anytime, and under extreme conditions!

      I think that exploration of human reproduction in other than 'on earth' environments is a worthy scientific pursuit, but with our current social/cultural/religious attitudes, well, there are bound to be problems...


  • Come on, we all knew this had to happen eventually. I call Rule 34 on space!
  • No doubt (Score:5, Funny)

    by countertrolling ( 1585477 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @04:31AM (#34858896) Journal

    The issue of illegal aliens will come up

  • by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @04:32AM (#34858902) Homepage Journal
    If the objective were really to populate another planet wouldn't it make more sense to send a bunch of fertile women and a bunch of semen instead of males? The semen would be a lot lighter(big deal when you are talking space travel), require less resources to keep alive etc. Furthermore you could increase genetic variability by having semen from a bunch of males without increasing the number of people sent. Seems like we really are unnecessary guys :P
    • Spoil sport :\
    • Kurt Vonnegut would agree [].

    • by sznupi ( 719324 )

      Why only semen? [] (plus small initial stock of women, of course - especially in our system, it will be most likely more viable / sooner than artificial uteri and surrogate mother robots)

      Numerically, it might very well be the main mode of human transportation between the colonies... (as you said, they will need genetic diversity) in deep hibernation / we can do it already! Embryos or their precursors.

    • by Obvius ( 779709 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @05:04AM (#34859026)
      Until there's a spider in the bathtub :p
    • This kind of talk can only end in bukkake.
    • by Tom ( 822 )

      Successful reproduction does not end at the insemination stage. While we still have a long way to go to understand the whole process, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the father is as important as the mother to a developing child, although in a different way.

  • by weston ( 16146 ) <westonsd&canncentral,org> on Thursday January 13, 2011 @04:41AM (#34858932) Homepage

    The Journal of Cosmology has published a special issue...which touches all the bases. In a chapter titled Sex on Mars...

    Are we sure we got the right "Cosmo" here?

  • I doubt no testing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Todd Knarr ( 15451 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @04:50AM (#34858970) Homepage

    Virtually no human testing? Given the kind of person who gets into the astronaut corps, I seriously doubt that. There's probably been no official investigation into this done, but when you coop seven mixed-gender, highly intelligent, very curious, extremely goal-driven, competitive problem-solvers up in a small ship for the lengths of time a shuttle mission runs, I think we can pretty much guarantee there's been plenty of unofficial investigations conducted. And there's been IIRC several mixed-gender ISS crews, so ditto there.

    I also suspect they've found the entire exercise to be awkward, exhausting (and not in the good way), inconvenient to arrange around all the monitoring that's done, difficult to keep private in those cramped quarters, and generally an awful lot of work for a lot less reward than you'd expect. But if anybody wants to go to Mars they're going to have to figure out how to deal with sex and how to make it reasonably convenient, because no crew's going to remain completely celibate that long.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      We could send catholic priests...oh wait

      • Damn, where are thos mod points when you need 'em!
        Although I suppose you really could send catholic priests as long as there are no minors on board. The church even admitted fairly recently that the planets revolve around the sun, so there can be no religious objections to the trip anymore either.
    • by Pollardito ( 781263 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @10:55AM (#34861620)

      I also suspect they've found the entire exercise to be awkward, exhausting (and not in the good way), inconvenient to arrange around all the monitoring that's done, difficult to keep private in those cramped quarters, and generally an awful lot of work for a lot less reward than you'd expect.

      Most of those statements could be made about "The Mile High Club" and yet people do it just to say that they've done it.

  • There have been some amusing studies on quail and development in microgravity. It was hypothesized that gravity might be necessary for proper development. I haven't read any papers on it, but I've heard the embryos seemed pretty normal. Suggests that human embryos might develop normally too.

    Not entirely surprising. Embryos and their mothers or eggs carrying them can be oriented any way with no obvious defects in development. I mean, I'm guessing not many pregnant women will want to stand on their heads

  • by michelcolman ( 1208008 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @04:59AM (#34858998)
    It would probably be safest to simply allow sex, since it's going to happen anyway, you might as well regulate it to make sure it does not go out of control. Married couples are probably the best bet, even though nothing's for certain. I think that the likelihood of divorce probably decreases when you bear the responsibility of causing a Mars mission to fail.
    To avoid accidental pregnancy, simply sterilize the men, it's a simple procedure.
    Then, if the goal is to colonize Mars and actually have pregnancies there, transport the frozen semen of the husbands to inseminate their wives, along with frozen semen from other men to use with some of the female offspring to avoid incest.
    There, all problems solved!
  • What if, instead of being all afraid of "o my god, they might have sex", you embrace the issue and actually send people who are very open about sex, maybe couples who are used to partner swapping and foursomes etc.
    No stress, no "cheating" (since it's not), sex is just something you do, like a sport. It wouldn't be hard to find people like that. Of course you should still avoid zero-G pregnancy, but contraceptives or sterilization are not exactly rocket science.
    On top of that, as an added bonus, video fe
  • by Arancaytar ( 966377 ) <> on Thursday January 13, 2011 @05:17AM (#34859092) Homepage

    Indeed, humans have Borg-like powers of genetic adaptation, so that several generations of living in an extraterrestrial habitat that has been technologically rendered as Earth-like as possible would cause them to spontaneously mutate to the point of sexual incompatibility with normal humans (the normal definition of separate species).

    • by jamesh ( 87723 )

      No the species would need a bit of help. Simply kill all the babies that weren't green with antennae and you'd have martian's in no time.

  • any difficulties associated with sexual intercourse in space may turn out to be an easily solved problem of docking and entry as human are notorious for inventing ways of having sex despite all manner of logistical impediments

    Oh the insinuations are infinite!

  • Rather than just the intercourse aspect, I would like to see studies on the development in the womb and childbirth whilst in zero-g. Understand the effects of zero-to-lighter than earth gravity will have on the baby's development.
  • by aepervius ( 535155 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @05:53AM (#34859252)
    "And after several generations, you'd have a new species,' he said."

    I seriously doubt he said that, or he is not a biologist worth its salt (no I did not read the *fox news* article). The only way to have a new specie , is only if there are mutation which happens to make the new baby to be more adapted to the new environment, and this is selected for, NOT because they grow there and are getting use to the environment (in the latest case, such a person having baby on earth would have baby identical to any other human). I seriously doubt this would happen in several generation only, most probably you would need much more by 1 or 2 order of magnitude to see a real new specie.
  • by Stooshie ( 993666 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @06:01AM (#34859280) Journal
    " And after several generations, you'd have a new species".

    Erm, unlikely.

    After several 1000 generations, if children with mutations are allowed to develop, you may have a new species.
  • Infrastructure? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by damn_registrars ( 1103043 ) <> on Thursday January 13, 2011 @06:31AM (#34859400) Homepage Journal
    I have a hard time imagining that we would be willing or able to develop the infrastructure for children to grow up on Mars anytime soon. It is one thing to send (adult) astronauts to Mars, they can wear the same sized space suit pretty much until they die. But if you send a child (or a pregnant woman) to Mars, the growing child will need far more of everything in order to survive. I understand that space suits are not exactly cheap to manufacture here on earth - can you imagine trying to make on one Mars? And if a child on Mars grew at anywhere near the rate they grow on Earth, the wait time to ship a new suit from Earth would likely be completely unacceptable.

    And that says nothing about the piles of diapers, or the need for something resembling a proper education, or proper pediatric care and nutrition...

    I just don't see it being reasonable to have children on Mars until we have a sizable established population of adults there for a reasonably long time. And at that, we might want to wait until we have figured out the round trip (although a long car ride with a child can be infuriating - I can't imagine what interplanetary transport would be like!).
  • I demand references on the testing that practically/literally did occur, that would justify your use of "virtually".

  • I volunteer to help NASA scientists with this study! Now they just need to shoot me in space and find me some sex partners, all in the name of science!

  • Several *thousand* generations. Evolution doesn't work that quick, unless Mars is made of Mutagen-x.

  • virtually no human testing

    And how do they know?

  • The porn spoof "The Uranus Experiment" contains several zero-g sex scenes (using parabolic flight) so sex in zero-g must at least be physically possible

  • And after several generations, you'd have a new species,' he said."

    We sure don't need that, we already have sensational slashdot editors completely lacking in the office of gravity. Fortunately it's 04:00 and I don't have the physical energy to hammer my brains out, though this troll caption gave me good incentive.

    • And after several generations, you'd have a new species,' he said."

      Jebeeeesus etch crisis, I have to kick this cat again.

      What's the difference between a nerd and a retard? One of them can tie a Windsor knot, but I forget which.

  • by OrangeMonkey11 ( 1553753 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @09:14AM (#34860288)

    Maybe NASA should talk to the Russian about this I'm sure they've done a few experiments on this subject matter at some point

  • by McNihil ( 612243 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @01:17PM (#34864102)

    Where can we sign up?

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger