It may sound taboo, but one of the most popular questions fielded by astronauts posits the idea of sex in space. Many wonder if it is even possible. Some argue that it must have happened by now, what with all the coed crews journeying to the International Space Station. So is sex in space possible? And, more interestingly, has sex in space ever happened?
Is Sex in Space Possible?
Sex would be very difficult in space. The micro-gravity environment causes problems in multiple ways.
The first problem is one that would certainly stop things in their tracks, and that is with the regulation of blood flow. The lack of proper gravity means that gravity does not flow throughout the body in the same way that it does on Earth, so it will be much more difficult (perhaps impossible in some cases) for males to achieve an erection.
It is possible that NASA has data on this, but it seems no one is talking. The second problem is that of sweat. When astronauts exercise in space their sweat tends to buildup in layers around their entire body, making them sticky and wet all over. This may make intimate moments more uncomfortable.
Then there are, of course, plumbing issues. Since blood obviously doesn't flow the same way in micro-gravity it is not a reach to assume that the flow of other vital sexual fluids would be inhibited as well. Though this may only be important if the goal were conception.
The third and most interesting problem is the actual act of sex. In a micro-gravity environment the slightest push or pull will send an object hurtling across the craft. This makes activities where two individuals are actively engaged physically quite difficult.
However, this will simply be overcome in the same way that astronauts already complete exercise routines in space. By strapping themselves into harnesses and fastening themselves to the walls of the spacecraft.
This may decrease the intimacy of the act, and will definitely be more constraining, but it should at least allow for a way for couples to engage in sexual activity (assuming everything else works).
Has Sex in Space Happened?
For more than 15 years rumors have swirled that NASA sanctioned sexual experiments in space. However, these accusations have been categorically denied.
Then, of course there is the question of astronauts taking matters into their own hands and creating unauthorized sexual rendezvous aboard the space craft. However, astronauts have commented before that this is extremely unlikely.
First of all the quarters are pretty tight, there really aren't a lot of places that a couple could sneak off for a little hanky-panky. Secondly, astronauts are under very tight schedules, they have virtually no free moments to squeeze in unauthorized activities.
Given the complexities of engaging in such activities, as mentioned above, it would be difficult to find the time and space to have sex without anyone else on board noticing. And considering the nature of man, it is also reasonable to assume that if a couple of astronauts did manage to make it happen we would have heard about it. I mean come one, sex in space, how could you not tell anyone?
Besides, as astronauts note, space exploration is a tricky and sometimes dangerous business. There is little room for messing around and jeopardizing careers (which it would be in light of NASA's strict no sex policy in space); they are professionals after all.
Will Sex in Space Ever Happen?
While officials deny that the act of space coitus has, up to this point, been related to the rumor mill only, there is little denying that it is an inevitability.
If longer and longer space missions are to be considered, particularly those to other worlds, sex in space will certainly have to happen. The bigger question is the possibility of pregnancy in space, which is a much trickier issue.
How and when this happens is anyones guess. It will likely be part of a longer term mission, and there would have to be considerable planning and contingencies in place for such studies. But even if sex in space hasn't happened yet, it must at some point.