As the space tourism industry grows, so too do concerns about the potential for sex — and even conception — in microgravity.
In a new paper, researchers at the United Kingdom's Cranfield University questioned whether the space tourism industry has even begun grappling with the concept of customers potentially having sex and conceiving children in space, which is a big deal given the growing body of evidence suggesting that microgravity and radiation could seriously mess up a fetus.
While the idea of getting it on in zero gravity sounds exciting — and has already been the topic of ample Futurism speculation — it's an eventuality that private space tourism companies haven't yet given much thought to, at least in a public capacity.
"It is unrealistic to assume all future space tourists will abstain from sexual activities," the Cranfield press release about the paper so aptly puts it, "opening the possibility of human conception and the early stages of human reproduction occurring in space."
While no space age love children have yet been born, there's a non-zero chance that any fetuses conceived in microgravity and the ionizing radiation of space could suffer even worse outcomes than the known ill effects of that environment on fully-developed human adults.
Having no preparation for space conception is a major issue that "appears to pose several risks," the Cranfield statement notes, including "those of a biological nature such as embryo developmental risks," not to mention the legal quagmires it could welcome.
While the private space tourism industry hasn't yet begun dealing with the probability of space sex and its reproductive outcomes, NASA definitely has — and on the books, it bars astronauts from getting down in space because of the potentially detrimental effects that microgravity and radiation could have on fetuses.
Though there have been limited — and somewhat successful — studies looking at the reproduction of invertebrates, insects, and amphibians in space, when it comes to mammals there's been no dice. Considering how huge an outstanding question mark there is when it comes to space reproduction, it makes sense why NASA would ban it — though of course, not all types of sex can even result in conception.
All told, unplanned space pregnancy (or "uncontrolled human conception," as the Cranfield researchers put it) seems like a pretty big gamble, and as the green paper notes, "there appears to be no mitigation of the risks" surrounding it in the burgeoning space tourism industry.
Eventually, private space companies are going to have to come up with guidelines for safe sex in space — because, if nothing else, we can count on humans to screw each other, one way or another.
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