The Case for Studying Sex In Space
There's more to it than low gravity and populating a new planet.
As part of the ongoing Future of Sex Expert Series, the founder of SpaceAustralia.com shares insights on the need to study sex in space.
Sex in space might seem like a Sci-Fi concept, but it is very much an active area of interest and research amongst the science communities, especially at the intersection between the emerging field of human health in space, and space exploration.
There are a number of facets that arise when considering the need to better understand sex in space.
This stems from the fact that humans are curious creatures—we are built to explore new things. A hot topic in space science today is sending humans to both a Lunar and Martian outpost—something likely achieved in the next few decades.
Long space journeys
The problem with space is that everything is really far—a trip to Mars takes six months and because of the way both Earth and Mars orbit the Sun, the most efficient return trip requires a two-year window.
And these two interplanetary bodies are some of the closest!
If we ever want to step out further, say to the Moons of Jupiter or Saturn, then the travel time becomes longer.
We are yet to achieve the capabilities of interstellar travel, which would itself take tens of thousands of years. You can now see why the need to better understand how sex in space would work—if humans are going to start exploring and living beyond our atmosphere, they are going to have sexual desires, urges, and at its core—the need for reproduction.
And here is where things get tricky.
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From a psychological perspective, sexual relations are both fulfilling and complicated. So we need to better understand how humans in long-duration isolation work when sex is a factor.
For example, what does the stress and isolation do to our relationships, especially when you are stuck on a ship with someone who you originally got along with, but then later did not?
How does the weight of being one of the first people that is tasked to repopulate an entire new planet play on one’s mind?
Repopulating a new plant
Importantly, from a reproduction perspective, we need to learn about how the human body can operate in a zero or low gravity environment.
Here on Earth, our bodies are governed by Earth’s gravity, our circadian rhythms by the 24-hour solar day, our ability to heal and evolve thanks to Earth’s atmosphere protecting us from harmful radiation. This all goes out the door in space.
For example, how would fertilisation occur in microgravity environments? Do babies grow in utero the same way when there is no gravity present? What about childbirth on a spaceship where water is limited? How do artificial sleep cycles impact our sexual drive and desires?
We also need to consider the professional services involved— such as doctors (when things go wrong) and psychologists (when debriefing is essential). Additionally, the need to build medicine that can withstand long-duration space flight with high exposure to radiation from space.
So there is lots to think about from a health perspective, a human perspective, a medicine perspective, and a psychological perspective. These are all very much being looked at by various teams around the world, as humans continue to push outwards into the Solar System.
Image sources: Greg Rakozy