How to have sex in space: It’s harder than you think

On his first morning aboard the space shuttle Discovery, astronaut Mike Mullane woke up with a massive hard-on.

Scientists once questioned whether erections would be possible in space because blood and fluids move and redistribute within the body without gravity. The hormones that increase sex drive also decrease. But some male astronauts have spoken out about the changes they’ve observed in their own anatomy. Not only is it possible to get aroused in space, but sometimes the environment has a turbo effect, leading to a nickname for the experience: space Viagra.

“I had an erection so strong it was painful,” Mullane said in his book Riding rockets. “I could have drilled through kryptonite.”

NASA, on the other hand, would rather not talk about sex. This has been the approach to sending people into space for the last 60 years. According to NASA, to its knowledge no one has ever joined the hundreds-mile-high club, although contrary to popular belief, the agency does not have a formal policy regarding sexual activity in space, said Sandra Jones, a spokeswoman for NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

“We rely on the professionalism and good judgment of our astronauts,” she told Mashable.

But here we are, at a time when the US space agency is preparing long-duration missions to the Moon and Mars, with men and women as crew, without first-hand knowledge of how this mission works in space. Meanwhile, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are bringing more and more civilians to kiss the Karman Line, where Earth’s atmosphere and space meet. SpaceX’s Elon Musk dreams of colonizing Mars with his giant spaceship. Commercial companies are planning the construction Space hotels.


He didn’t live to see NASA’s futuristic mission, but his ashes will be there in space

For years, experts thinking about the species’ future survival have been calling on NASA to get its head out of the clouds and commit to formally studying sex in space. But perhaps the need for research is now more obvious.

“We know what people do in hotels on Earth,” said Dr. Shawna Pandya, Director of Medical Research at Above space developmentwhile talking about a South to southwest panel March. “It seems kind of ridiculous to say that we’re going to try to dictate what people can and can’t do in space hotels off Earth. If we were to argue that this question wasn’t relevant or timely before, then that would definitely be the case now.”

“I had an erection so strong it was painful. I could have drilled through kryptonite.”

Is sex possible in space?

In the absence of scientific evidence, rumors have filled the gap.

Despite There are no confirmed cases of sex in space, Doctors generally believe it is possible. Weightlessness could pose some unpleasant challenges, all of which can probably be overcome with the ingenuity of smart people. After all, it was like that a rocket scientist who invented the Astroglide Lubricant.

The obstacle is Newton’s third law of motion: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. On Earth, gravity and body weight create pressure that is helpful in missionary, cowgirl, and virtually every other sex position. But in weightlessness, two people who bump into each other float away. For this reason, sex would likely require strategies to prevent participants from drifting apart with each thrust.

The relatively boring solution is already a status quo design element of the International Space Station. The walls are covered with Velcro strips, so all you have to do is attach a suitable partner to the sticky surface. But space experts have of course also considered other options.

Pandya suggested that the technology and equipment used to train astronauts in cardiopulmonary resuscitation could serve a dual purpose. In a current one TikTok videoItalian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti demonstrated how the crew handles breathing and chest compressions in an emergency situation. One method was to turn completely with the feet and push off the ceiling to press on the patient’s chest. Another method uses a “CPR bench,” which Cristoforetti said is always used in the cabin and has a side strap to attach the rescuer to the equipment.

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“There are many ways to make sexual interaction in space actually possible.”

Perform CPR in space

Astronaut Josh Cassada practices CPR during a 2022 exercise on the International Space Station.
Photo credit: NASA

German astronaut Ulrich Walter once said this in an interview with NDR, a German public broadcaster, that people could be inspired by the animal kingdom. For example, sometimes a third dolphin helps keep two other dolphins together in the sea to make mating easier. Maybe human hands, arms, and legs—instead of fins—make a threesome less necessary, but this is confirmation to Walter that he’s thinking outside the monoamorous box.

The late Vanna Bonta, a science fiction author and actress, made the so-called 2Suita garment to support sex in space after moving on a parabolic flight with the National Space Society in 2004. The invention is a flight suit with a front flap that can be opened and attached to another such suit with Velcro. The garment has been designed with internal straps and options for attaching the wearer to other surfaces. In 2008, Bonta wore a 2Suit during a History Channel documentary.

“There are many ways to make sexual interaction in space actually possible,” said Simon Dube, a psychologist and research fellow at Indiana University’s Kinsey Institute, who also took part in the SXSW discussion. “We can think of the sleeping bags that astronauts sleep in on the International Space Station. (They are) pretty small. Two people could probably fit in and stay close to each other.”

Astronaut sleeping in the space station

Astronaut Ron Garan sleeps in a sleeping bag on the International Space Station.
Photo credit: NASA

NASA’s stance on sex with astronauts in space

But NASA probably hasn’t discussed off-label use of the space station’s sleeping accommodations since 1985. As the agency prepared to send women to work alongside men on the future space station, the possibility of sexual activity suddenly became a topic of conversation (Didn’t people in the 1980s think that all-male crews could engage in sexual activity?) NASA- Researcher Yvonne Clearwater wrote Psychology today that the agency should assume that “a group of normal, healthy professionals is likely to have normal, healthy sexual appetites.”

“Someone will want to be first.”

She and other psychologists, engineers and an architect advise the design of the space station These are sleeping compartments for two people, equipped with soundproofing materials.

“When we lock people up for 90-day periods, we have to plan for the possibility of intimate behavior,” Clearwater wrote at the time.

Journalists burst into tears and covered the article with headlines full of puns (“No G-Spot, Anyone? The Big Bang?”). But the idea of ​​allowing astronaut traffic at taxpayer expense apparently wasn’t well received by Congress. A New York Times The story was published seven years later quoted an anonymous sourcewho said a NASA employee had been assigned to deal with the political backlash for six months.

Sleeping on the International Space Station

Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata straps on a sleeping bag in his ISS sleep station in January 2014.
Photo credit: NASA / Koichi Wakata

Can people become sexually aroused in space?

As exciting as the topic is, some have speculated that it might be difficult to tune into. Astronauts often feel space sick and dirty. Remember, they exist No showers on the space station — wet wipes and rinse-free shampoo only. They are now NASA astronauts expected me to break a sweat At least two hours a day on a treadmill or exercise bike to counteract bone and muscle loss.

Last year, astronaut Bob Hines described what happens to body fluids in weightlessness in a YouTube video for the Museum of Science in Boston. On Earth, sweat drips down the face and clothing wicks away much of the moisture. But in space, surface tension keeps this liquid around. Aside from that, the lack of convection in space This means that heat surrounds people like an aura and causes astronauts to sweat more than usual.

“When we lock people up for 90 days, we have to plan for the possibility of intimate behavior.”

For Hines, these juices collected in his hair during training.

“If I let it go long enough, I would end up with such a wonky helmet on my head,” he said. “As I was running, I could feel it shaking back and forth up there.”

“I could feel it shaking back and forth up there.”

Applying this knowledge to other bodily fluids, one might assume that female arousal – and therefore getting wet – feels different too. Natural genital lubrication would likely accumulate in similar clumps or droplets. But data and personal accounts of what happens to cervical fluid and other vaginal secretions in space are hard to find, even in the scientific literature menstruating astronauts (who, by the way, often choose to postpone their periods entirely using oral contraception until they return to Earth).

Sexual curiosity is perhaps as innate as the urge to explore the cosmos. Maybe that’s why the public is so skeptical of space agencies when they say it’s never happened before.

“Someone will want to be the first – the first to copulate in space, the first to conceive in space, the first to give birth in space,” Pandya said. “If we don’t sort this out ethically… then we’re going to get in trouble later.”

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