Pondering the idea of sex in space? No, it doesn’t make you weird. If you’re thinking about it, you can bet a lot of other people are, too.
As a species, we’re totally into sex. Here on Earth, we have sex in some mighty clever places and in the most imaginative ways. But space? Now that’s a lot of unexplored territory.
We’ve been traveling in space for some time now, and we’re spending longer stretches of time on space stations. Billionaires seem intent on ushering in the age of space tourism and Mars colonization. Big things are happening.
And as many a sci-fi flick has suggested, there may come a time when our very survival depends on our ability to have sex someplace other than Earth. So it would be weird if we weren’t considering the sexual possibilities.
The question is, can we really do out there what comes so naturally to us down here?
Let’s see what the science says as we contemplate just how close we are to boldly going where no human has gone before.
If you’re picturing a scenario in which a space couple floats gracefully about while making mad, passionate love, we’re going to have to burst that bubble.
The most obvious roadblock on the way to that lovely fantasy is gravity — or the lack thereof.
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson addressed this very topic on National Geographic’s StarTalk.
As he explained it, the centrifugal force in a rotating space station could create gravity equivalent to that on Earth on the outer perimeter. There, it would be no different from having sex on Earth.
But drifting without rotating would result in weightlessness, which would make sex quite the challenge. You’d bounce off your partner as you attempt to connect.
Tyson suggests that it’s possible to have sex while drifting, but you’d need a set of straps to hold you and your partner together. Those straps would also keep you from drifting into everything else.
But there’s more. Zero gravity also affects your blood flow.
Here on Earth, your body works against gravity. Instead of letting blood pool in your feet and legs, your cardiovascular system pumps blood all around your body.
But in zero gravity, blood is more evenly distributed. Your heart doesn’t need to pump as hard, which can slow down your heart rate and blood pressure.
This could make it harder, but not impossible, for a male to get an erection. Reduced blood flow could also interfere with female arousal.
So, is it possible? The answer is probably yes. But it looks like we’re not there just yet.
Hey, we’re all different, so that’s a tough question to answer. But there are a few things that could dampen your desire.
Being weightless sounds like fun, but it takes some getting used to. What’s up and what’s down? Is that the floor or the ceiling? It’s disorienting. Space motion sickness is very real and can cause nausea and vomiting for several days.
Bodily fluids flow differently, which can make you feel congested and puffed up in the face. And yes, you just might have a headache tonight, dear.
Speaking of bodily fluids, any that escape — like sweat — won’t just roll off and fall on the floor. They’ll glob on to your skin. Make any big movements, and they’ll end up floating all around you.
None of that is likely to spark a romantic mood.
A disrupted circadian rhythm may also render you too tired to put in all the effort that sex would take.
There’s been a mountain of speculation, but no confirmation thus far. If anyone has ever had sex in space, their lips are sealed.
Well, if you’re going to have sex in space, it’s not likely to happen spontaneously. It’s going to take some serious forethought.
The kinds of spacecraft we’ve built so far aren’t particularly spacious. There’s not much room to maneuver. On the other hand, being in a small space might be helpful.
You’d have to be prepared with straps or some sort of contraption to keep yourselves together, yet allow room for movement.
Of course, privacy could be a major issue, considering the amount of room you’d have and the number of astronauts needed to keep things running smoothly. Not to mention cameras and microphones connected to ground control.
It would take a group effort and a whole lot of careful planning to overcome these obstacles. Who knows? Perhaps scientists are already working toward sex-friendlier accommodations.
Human conception has never occurred outside of Earth’s atmosphere. And we simply don’t have enough information to know whether this would even be possible.
Here are a few things that research has shown so far:
- Space travel can reduce sperm mobility and produce more structurally altered sperm.
- Studies on rats exposed to simulated microgravity showed testicular degeneration.
- In animals, the neurochemistry of the hypothalamus, which plays a crucial role in fertilization, is disrupted.
To date, only about 15 percent of U.S. astronauts have been female. A lot of research needs to take place before we begin to understand how hormonal functions and microgravity could affect conception.
No human female has ever been pregnant in space. It’s unclear how microgravity could affect a developing fetus.
Microgravity isn’t the only potential problem. Earth’s atmosphere protects us from harmful radiation. We don’t have that protection in space, so we don’t know how that would affect a developing fetus.
There are also several fluids involved in pregnancy. Fluids within the body don’t behave the same way in space as they do on Earth. It’s unclear how this would affect a developing fetus.
If you think having sex sounds difficult, try wrapping your head around the idea of giving birth — and all that entails — without the benefit of gravity.
With all of the potential life-and-death issues involved, it’s doubtful that scientists will even consider attempting this anytime soon.
Some of the health effects of having ventured out into space continue after returning to Earth. But we know little about reproductive health after space travel.
We do know that male astronauts have fathered children after spaceflight. But we lack data on:
Sex in space is an intriguing prospect offering more questions than answers. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible or that it will never happen.
After all, we were once convinced that Earth was flat, but our thirst for knowledge paid off.
Eventually, we figured out how to escape our own atmosphere. We’ve walked on the surface of the moon and built space stations that house astronauts for months at a time.
Humans are a stubborn lot. Most assuredly, space exploration will endure. We’ll keep pushing the boundaries. Sex is a fundamental human experience, and we’ll no doubt take it with us to the final frontier.
Our journey has just begun.