The Russian space station Mir is shown as it orbits Earth

Sex In Space Not Kinky Preoccupation: Odd Data Found In Serious Studies

Who cares about sex in space? Apparently, some of today’s most intelligent minds feel there is a need to study the act of sex and its aftermath while out of the Earth’s atmosphere. The term “sex in space” is very general, and it might leave you wondering just how the scientists would go about studying this deed in a place that offers no gravity.

Scientists are not interested in the pleasure aspect of sex, or at least at this time it is not anything they’ve added to their wish-list. What the studies of sex in space are centered on is the reproductive possibilities while beyond the Earth’s atmosphere, according to the series Earth to Mars.

Some studies have been conducted on this topic, but not nearly enough. According to the Earth to Mars series, the study of sex in space would be the “key to living on Mars.” What the studies have shown so far came with some surprises, like male pilots and astronauts who have spent time in altered gravity tend to father one gender more than the other.

So why would science probe this topic in the first place? While baby-making has it roots here on Earth, this might not be the only place conception will take place in the far-off future. With the great strides made in space exploration, there could come a day when Mars offers up cheap real estate and space ships made by the Elon Musks of the world could shuttle families to their new homes.

An astronaut stepping foot on the red planet is very far off in the future, never mind the concept of the construction of Mars’ homes, but the study of sex in space does have some use for today. As the astronauts are enduring longer and longer stays on the International Space Station, the aftermath of this lack of gravity and the exposure to radiation comes into play for reproduction.

The Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field protect humans from 99 percent of the subatomic particles of radiation that move very fast through space. Once out of the atmosphere, however, there’s nothing between that radiation and the astronauts besides their vessel. The protection from Earth’s magnetic field does reach beyond the atmosphere, but the further from Earth one travels, the less protection they have.

According to Earth to Mars, “Those particles can slam into DNA like a bowling ball laying down a sweet split. The damage they leave behind can alter genetic instructions, setting up a path that leads to cancer, genetic mutations that can be passed down to children, and other problems.”

It has been known for a long time that radiation wreaks havoc on the organs that are vital in reproduction. Then there is the microgravity of space that causes astronauts to lose muscle mass as they float around in space. This micro-gravity appears to “alter biology,” according to scientists.

Earth to Mars cites that over the course of 50 years, “[a]ll told, at least five species — from amoebas to rats — have gone through the, er, act of reproduction while in orbit. Other species have spent part of their gestation in space or donated their space-altered sperm and eggs to science.”

While not enough testing has been done on sex in space, the outcome of the tests that were completed offered some surprising results. Russia launched a satellite carrying both female and male mice. They were given 18 days to “mingle” in space before bringing them back down. While two rats became pregnant, both pregnancies resulted in miscarriages. No births came out of this experiment.

More modern-day tests with female mice on the International Space Station in 2010 and 2011. Some of the mice stopped ovulating and others lost their corpus luteum. The corpus luteum forms in the ovary once an egg is released. It maintains pregnancy by releasing hormones. Without it, a pregnancy could still occur, but it most likely wouldn’t last long. Scientists believe the lack of sustaining a pregnancy in these mice was due to the microgravity in space.

It is not known if humans would experience the same things with reproduction as mice, but other surprising data shows that male astronauts and pilots who spend time in altered gravity tend to have something in common: They father more female babies than male babies.

With only 11 percent of the astronauts who have gone into space being female, it is not easy to grab statistics on the effects of space on their hormones. Many of these female astronauts have opted to take medication to alter their menstrual cycles so they don’t occur while in space. They have that option today, but according to Popular Science, there was once a time where the mindset was that “a menstruating or hormonal woman just wouldn’t be able to handle herself in the challenging environment of spaceflight.” That was in the mid-1960s when NASA space flight program was not opened to women.

In 1978, six women were brought into the space flight program, but there was still some strange concepts around women menstruating in space. Back in 1983, when NASA was preparing for Sally Ride’s space flight as the first American woman in space, they packed up personal kits for each astronaut. NASA engineers had the task to figure out how many tampons she would need for a one-week mission.

Sally was asked, “Is 100 the right number?”

She answered, “No. That would not be the right number.”

The engineers explained they were leaning on the side of safety. She reassured the engineers that half that amount would be within their safety concerns.

[Featured Image by NASA TV/AP Images]

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