To present sex has never actually been attempted by NASA astronauts in space. (to our knowledge), but it just may be the one crucial piece we’re missing. Think of it, there are very likely people who will be going to Mars and forming a colony, going to Mars to never return. Exciting as that sounds, unless we plan on simply re-seeding Mars with new people every so many years, the population will have to grow on its own which presents a number of interesting issues. If the future of our species is truly in the stars then it’s time we stop coddling ourselves and get with it. Most of our biological functions are disrupted by gravity or lack thereof.
Research on sex in space is underfunded, any surprise? Get that by congress! That’s not to say all sex (barring the human species) has not been tested. From amoeba’s to rat’s starting back about 50 years ago and off & on since reproduction in orbit has been studied. So has getting pregnant while in space and spending part of the gestation, getting pregnant in space & donating their space-altered sperm (or eggs) to science, and so on.
Unfortunately space travel can affect reproduction in a number of ways. Radiation is a fact of life in space. The subatomic particles moving quickly, potentially bombarding the DNA. The resulting damage? Genetic Mutations, alterations to the instructions in a strand of DNA, a predisposition to Cancer as well as other problems. Here on Earth we are protected to more than 99% of the radiation that might otherwise find us thanks to our magnetic field.
NASA is not in the business of setting people up to live in Space – their adventurers. Obviously the day is coming that will change that and coming faster than the necessary data. BUT there are a couple of facts gleaned from our astronaut population. First of all know that only 10-12% of the astronauts are of the female persuasion. Of that 10-12% most are in their late thirties and choose to take hormonal birth control throughout their time in space and stop the menstruation cycle. As a result, there is no discernable evidence to be obtained. However, as for men, there is evidence that they father more females than male babies. But that’s simply a trend until its proven otherwise.
On the positive side NASA has developed a radiation shield for astronauts that cover the entire chest area. It’s due to be tested on the trips to the Moon. Should that prove successful perhaps they can cover the genitals as well, solving just some of the problems. Not to get too graphic but likely as the lack of gravity can interfere with the digestive process, why not similarly make it difficult for swimmers? Hopefully they will test this situation prior to us going to Mars.
SCENARIO: We send 20 people (in groups of five) to Mars. Before we can make it 25, a rogue planet comes flying through the Milky Way and takes Earth out. Those 20 people become the last humans in the universe. BUT can Adam & Eve or Elon and Evie procreate? Food for thought!