Can astronauts have sex?

Space exploration Sex in space: how does it actually work?

Love is a science. The makers of the Silbersalz Festival in Halle even made it the cover topic for 2019: The Science of Love. But what about love in space? For many scientists, it is only a matter of time before we set off there. Stephen Hawking had intended us to colonize new planets in 100 years at the latest, because problems such as climate change, overpopulation or diseases on earth can no longer be solved. And that also means that we cannot always be exposed to natural gravity.

Human sperm in space

In this context, researchers ask themselves an important question: is it even possible to create new life outside of the earth? Little is known so far about reproductive biology in space. Research has already been carried out on frogs, salamanders, snails and invertebrates, but not yet on human sperm. NASA pursued this question with its Micro11 mission in 2018. It was about the question of how human sperm behaves in weightlessness.

The astronauts Drew Feustel and Serena Auñón-Chancellor carried out the relevant investigations.Joseph Tash from Kansas University is the scientist in charge who is now evaluating the data. He will then be able to tell us whether the sperm are fertile in space.

So, so far, nothing is officially known about how long stays in space affect people's reproductive health. Micro-11 is intended to close this knowledge gap - also in order to develop measures if normal human reproduction in space is not possible at all.

Problems with sperm movement

Mammals, including humans, reproduce when an egg cell is fertilized by sperm. But before that can happen, the sperm must be activated and move faster and faster. Previous experiments in space with the sperm of sea urchins and bulls have shown that the activation of the sperm takes place faster, but the movement afterwards slows down or even comes to a standstill - very poor conditions for potential "space offspring".

Do like the dolphins

Apart from the biological prerequisite for bringing new life into space, there would also be a technical requirement. Sex in space could be quite cumbersome because the bodies would always drift apart due to the weightlessness. Ex-astronaut Ulrich Walter has an answer to this problem. In 1993 he was one of two German astronauts on the STS-55 mission on the space shuttle Columbia. In an interview on NDR television, he revealed that people had to keep it in the water like dolphins during sex in space. In dolphin sex, a third member of the same species often prevents the other two from drifting apart.

But those aren't the only problems. The ISS is fully monitored, except for the toilet. The blood flow works differently in weightlessness, which makes erections much more difficult.

Has there ever been sex in space?

There are no official statements about this. NASA had already sent a couple to Al in 1992 - Mark Lee and Nancy Jan Davis flew with the space shuttle Endeavor to Spacelab. If the German astronaut Ulrich Walter has his way, then the first sex in space took place ten years earlier. Back then, on August 19, 1982, Svetlana Savitskaya flew with Leonid Popov and Alexander Serebrov to the Russian space station Salut 7. Anatoly Berezovoy and Valentin Lebedev, who had been on board since May 1982, were already waiting there.

And the Russian team doctor had confirmed that the mission was the first sex in space, Walter writes in his book "Ride in Hell through Space and Time".