Sex in Space a Hurdle for Interstellar Travel

By Sarah T. Schwab
|  Thursday, Oct 13, 2011  |  Updated 8:36 AM PDT
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Sex in Space a Hurdle for Interstellar Travel

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Think being part of the mile high club sounds exciting? Imagine joining the 62-mile high club (technically at that altitude, you're in space). James Bond definitely qualified for having a climatic congress with Holly Goodhead in the 1979 film Moonraker. But in reality just how enjoyable, or realistic, is sex in space.

On the list of possible hindrances associated with interstellar travel (along with crazy costs and technological developments), experts say space sex is just one more bullet point.

To put it in perspective: the closest star to earth is four light-years away, or about 24 trillion miles. A journey like that would take humans centuries to complete using what's available today. Thus meaning those aboard would need to procreate in order to make it.

With Mr. Bond in mind, sure, this sound fine. But biologist Athena Andreadis of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, speaking to SPACE.com's Clara Moskowitz, argues otherwise: "Sex is very difficult in zero gravity, apparently, because you have no traction and you keep bumping against the walls. Think about it: you have no friction, you have no resistance."

Microgravity has been known to have negative effects on the human body over time: weakening our vision and muscle tissue, lowering our bone mineral and blood volume. With the regulation of blood flow off kilter, it would certainly stop a vital process or two in their tracks.

Another problem: let's say, despite the odds, a man got a woman pregnant beyond orbit. Giving birth in zero gravity would suck. You know, because gravity and the weight of the baby helps the process along, and any manner of birth defects could spring up. Microgravity could have severe negative, long-term effects on a fetus, from blindness to something more specific, such as the perpetual inability to get an erection.

Worst case scenario? "Something will come up that we simply haven't thought about," Andreadis continues, "we have to be prepared for casualties."

That's why starships with the ability to simulate gravity for such a long journey would be a requirement for MIT researcher Dan Buckland, who, speaking at an event analyzing DAPRA's plan to build a manned interstellar spaceship in less than 100 years, echoed Andreadis, saying, "it is still unknown, if you want kids and you want reproduction, what gravity has to do with successful development."

Our solution? Take a few pointers from immaculate, face-hugging conception. Technically it's not sex, but damn if that alien didn't know how to get people chest-burstingly pregnant.

LiveScience, via Gizmodo, via Blastr

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