I don’t know how things go in America, but where I went to school sex ed classes were a deeply uncomfortable affair that included ancient educational films, warnings about teenage pregnancy, and a couple of free sperm-shaped keychains. It’s definitely not an experience I’m interested in repeating anytime soon. But now, experts in the UK are suggesting that anyone hoping to fly into space and stay at an orbital hotel might have to retake lessons like this to learn about safe sex in space.
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Over the next decade, companies including Jeff Bezoz-backed Blue Origin are hoping to launch private space stations into orbit above the Earth. Such bases would offer an alternative to the aging International Space Station for research, but would also serve as hotels for the billionaires looking to get the best view of our burning planet below.
Because this new base will serve as a hotel for holidaymakers, experts are concerned that guests onboard might want to do more than just hold hands and enjoy the view. So now, CBC reports that scientists from Cranfield University in the UK have started looking into the risks of having sex in space.
According to David Cullen, professor of astrobiology and space biotechnology at the university, it’s “reasonable to assume” that at least some of the billionaires that can afford space travel might “want to engage in sexual activities” while they’re up there. This means there is a “potential for human conception” in space.
Sex and conception in a space hotel come with the same risks as it does on Earth, but Cullen warns that not enough is known about “what conceiving in space might do to a pregnancy.” According to CBC:
Cullen says it’s not the act of joining the 1,000 mile high club that comes with risks, but rather the possible repercussions.
“The key thing here is the space environments, primarily that of weightlessness and increased levels of ionizing radiation compared to the levels of ionizing radiation we all experience here on the surface of the Earth,” said Cullen.
“We don’t know what will happen with humans if they were to conceive and have the first early stages of human reproduction happening in space.”
According to the researchers, who published their findings in the paper Sex in Space: Consideration of uncontrolled human conception in emerging space tourism, the main concerns relate to the effects of zero-gravity and cosmic radiation levels on fetus development. Experts say that a quick jaunt into orbit and back over a long weekend is unlikely to impact development. But issues could arise if people spend longer periods floating above the Earth.
So far, Nasa has conducted some research on different animals’ ability to reproduce in space “with mixed results.” CBC reports that some animals could reproduce in zero gravity, while others couldn’t. Experiments have also been carried out where pregnant rats were shipped into orbit and brought back to Earth to give birth. Very few differences were observed in that experiment.
It sounds like scientists have some work to do before they write the curriculum for future space tourists’ sex ed classes. At least they have a while before the lessons really need to start, as while Blue Origin is already sending people into space, there won’t be a functioning place to stay overnight in orbit until at least the end of the decade.