Is Sex in Space Possible?

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Millis, John P., Ph.D. "Is Sex in Space Possible?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 29, 2017, thoughtco.com/is-sex-in-space-possible-3072597. Millis, John P., Ph.D. (2017, August 29). Is Sex in Space Possible? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/is-sex-in-space-possible-3072597 Millis, John P., Ph.D. "Is Sex in Space Possible?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/is-sex-in-space-possible-3072597 (accessed October 20, 2017).
sex in space
Making love in space is likely to be a bit tougher due to weighlessness and other factors. Tim Robberts/Getty Images

It may sound taboo, but one of the most popular questions fielded by astronauts is about sex in space. Lots of speculation exists, but so far as anyone knows, on-orbit hookups haven't happened yet. But as humans venture out on long-term missions in low-Earth orbit and possibly even to other planets, the likelihood of sex is space is growing. Humans are human after all, even if they're living as Martians.

 

Is Sex in Space Possible?

An understanding of the laws of physics tells us that sex would be very difficult in space. 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. 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. 

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. 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. 

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 under 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. 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.

Edited by Carolyn Collins Petersen.