Can Humans Have Sex in Space?

sex in space
Making love in space is likely to be a bit tougher due to weighlessness and other factors. Tim Robberts/Getty Images

Humans seem incredibly interested in sex and all its connotations. It's a focus of many cultural practices and of course, is the way that our species reproduces itself. So, what happens when humans start to live and work in space? Sooner or later, they're going to have sex.  Or, at least try to. The big question is: can it be done?

One of the more popular questions fielded by astronauts is about hooking up in low-grav.

Lots of speculation exists, but so far as anyone knows, nobody has tried or gotten away with on-orbit nookie. If they have, nobody's talking. But as humans venture out on long-term missions in low-Earth orbit and possibly even to other planets, sex in space is going to happen. Humans are human after all, even if they're living on the Red Planet as Martians or Loonies under the Moon's surface.

Is Sex in Space Possible?

Given that humans WILL be humans, is there any scientific reason why they can't have sex in space? Just from a physics standpoint, it looks like it might be difficult to achieve. That's due to the low gravity environment they would have to live in, at least part of the time. The microgravity environment that astronauts experience on the International Space Station, for example, causes all kinds of problems for living and working in space. Eating, sleeping, and exercising are all more complicated acts in space than they are on Earth, and sex would be no different.

 

For example, look at the regulation of blood flow. That's important for both sexes, but particularly for men. Low gravity means that blood doesn't flow throughout the body the same way as on Earth. It will be much more difficult (perhaps impossible) for a male to achieve an erection. And, without that, at least one avenue for having sex is going to be pretty difficult.

That doesn't stop other forms of sex, but if the idea is to also create babies, it's necessary to have working parts on both members of the couple involved. 

The second problem is sweat. When astronauts exercise in space, their sweat tends to build up in layers around their bodies, making them sticky and wet all over. This would give the word "steamy" a whole new meaning and may make intimate moments more uncomfortable.

Since blood doesn't flow the same way in microgravity as it does on Earth, it is not a reach to assume that the flow of other vital fluids would be inhibited as well. However, this may only be important if the goal is to make a baby. 

The third and most interesting problem is the actual act of having sex, which, as you may know, requires motion. In a microgravity environment, the slightest push or pull sends an object hurtling across the craft. This makes any physical interaction quite difficult, not just intimate ones. 

But there is a fix for these difficulties—the same fix used to overcome the difficulty of exercise in space. When they exercise, astronauts strap themselves into harnesses and fasten themselves to the spacecraft walls. This would presumably allow couples to engage in sexual activity as long everything else is working smoothly (see discussion of blood flow regulation above.) 

Has Sex in Space Happened?

For many years rumors claimed NASA sanctioned sexual experiments in space. These have been categorically denied by the space agency and the astronauts. That's just NASA. If Russian cosmonauts have done this, it's been a well-kept secret, too.  But one thing's for sure: even if two (or more) people managed some space nookie, someone would know. Unless they unhooked all their heart monitors and found a truly private place, somebody at mission control would see an uptick in heart rates and respiration and figure it out. Plus, with other humans on board, it wouldn't take long for somebody else to deduce what was happening. 

Then, there's the question of astronauts taking matters into their own hands and having an unauthorized sexual rendezvous on orbit. Most have commented that this is extremely unlikely.

 Space quarters are pretty tight and there really aren't a lot of places for a couple to engage in a little off-hours close-order drill. Also, they're on very tight schedules and have few free moments to squeeze in unauthorized activities. 

Will Sex in Space Ever Happen?

Sex on orbit is inevitable as long missions are planned, particularly those to other worlds. Certainly, no one expects a mixed crew on a long-term voyage to abstain from all activity, so it would be wise for mission planners to come up with spaces and rules about such activity. On the other hand, since sex is such a private activity, perhaps that aspect will be a tightly guarded secret.

The bigger question is the possibility of pregnancy in space, which is a much trickier issue. It is something that people will have to face as humans pursue longer space trips to the Moon and planets. However and whenever it happens, sex in space will eventually result in children, and depending on where they were conceived and grown, they could be very different physically and psychologically from Earth-born citizens. 

Edited by Carolyn Collins Petersen.

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Millis, John P., Ph.D. "Can Humans Have Sex in Space?" ThoughtCo, Nov. 27, 2017, thoughtco.com/is-sex-in-space-possible-3072597. Millis, John P., Ph.D. (2017, November 27). Can Humans Have Sex in Space? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/is-sex-in-space-possible-3072597 Millis, John P., Ph.D. "Can Humans Have Sex in Space?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/is-sex-in-space-possible-3072597 (accessed December 16, 2017).