Published January 12, 2011
Forget the mile-high club. Who's joined the million-mile high club?
NASA has always been silent 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.
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.
“Human beings are sexual,” Joseph told FoxNews.com. “They think about it a lot. So if you’re on a trip to Mars, it’s going to be dark out, you’ll be in a long period of isolation, and there’s not going to be a lot to do. There’s a definite possibility that it could happen.”
The Journal estimates that overall, a Mars expedition would take at least two years to complete: nine months to travel to the red planet, at least three months to remain for study, and then nine months to return, if a return trip were possible. Joseph says that given such a lengthy time period for the trip, emotional bonds between the astronauts are likely to form -- and it would be unwise not to anticipate them acting on those bonds.
Since no one has officially come forth to say that they’ve had sex in space just yet (Joseph says he’s heard rumors of a married couple “sealing the deal” on the International Space Station), Joseph based much of his research on Earthly scenarios with similar conditions.
“The Antarctic is comparable to space: It’s extremely cold down there and you spend a lot of time indoors. So NASA and lot of organizations think that’s a great analog to what it’ll be like on Mars,” Joseph told FoxNews.com. “And we see that researchers will go down there for extended periods of time in these extremely hostile conditions, and women will get pregnant. It’s just part of normal behavior.”
If astronauts are having sex, what are the chances of conceiving a child? The chapter details the possible effects of anti-gravity on menstruation and fertility, as well as the significance of a child born on Mars. Not unlike Stranger in a Strange Land, the landmark 1961 book about a human raised on Mars, Joseph believes that if it’s possible to give birth on the red planet, then we could see the development of the first “Martians” many years down the road.
“On Mars, the light’s going to be different, the gravity will be different, it’s a completely different atmosphere,” he told FoxNews.com. “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.
NASA does not take a position on sex in space. According to the “Astronaut Code of Professional Responsibility,” astronauts are expected to adhere to “a constant commitment to honorable behavior,” but NASA won’t go much further than that. Michael Finneran, a spokesman for NASA Langley Research Center, issued a simple statement about Joseph’s essay to FoxNews.com.
“Since it’s not a NASA publication, and NASA is not currently engaged in any initiatives to colonize Mars, and NASA’s not conducting any research on sex or reproduction in space or on Mars, we are unable to provide a comment on the matter,” Finneran told FoxNews.com.
Lana Tao, editor for the Journal of Cosmology, reiterated this sentiment and the controversy surrounding the topic, noting that Dr. Joseph’s chapter had to be revised three times due to the sensitivity of the subject matter.
“I participated in a conference at NASA headquarters in Langley that was supposed to last 30 minutes but went on for hours,” Tao told FoxNews.com. “Every chapter and every topic covered in the [special issue] was discussed, except one: sex. Instead, only those aspects of ‘colonizing Mars’ mentioned in the Sex on Mars chapter, were discussed."
"It's like TV shows from the 1970s where married couples sleep in separate twin beds, and women have babies but never show any signs of pregnancy,” she added.
So if NASA is looking to avoid any complications that would come with astronaut procreation, Dr. Joseph suggests sending two separate spacecrafts -- one containing only males and one containing only females -- or sending only married couples to Mars.
But first and foremost, he believes in being prepared.
“Send husbands and wives into space to have sex and do studies on it. It’s got to be done if the long range goal is to go to other planets,” Joseph told FoxNews.com. “Science marches on.”