Monday, May 28, 2007

The Love Boat To Mars.

There's been a spate of stories recently about the problems astronauts will face on long space missions. In a column on Wired.com, Regina Lynn takes on the issue of what the article calls, "The Uncomfortable Reality of Sex in Space." (Here.)

Lynn sees things this way. "We cannot expect astronauts to spend three years in a spacecraft and not have sex -- of some kind. Probably with each other, and likely in more than one combination." She suggests that astronauts should be sent to "the adult internet" to learn about "the wide range of human sexual relationships." For example:
"They can observe and experiment with sex without possession, partnership without monogamy, sexual pleasure without expectation of roses or breakfast.

They can discover group love, bond with a special someone, or both. They can try letting go of jealousy and fear, figure out how to protect themselves from other people's drama, and develop healthy ways to cope with desire, love and rejection.

Some astronauts might discover they are comfortable with polyamory or bisexuality while others might reaffirm their commitment to monogamy. The important thing is that they practice living and working respectfully with others regardless of who is sleeping with whom."
Okay, this is a serious issue and I don't want to minimize the problems astronauts will face on long missions. But are we talking about a space exploration mission or an adult sex cruise? I'm sure the Earthbound husbands and wives of distant astronauts might have a different perspective on the whole "whatever gets you through the night, love the one you're with" attitude expressed in Lynn's suggestions.

In any event, the truly uncomfortable reality of sex in space is not about relationships, morale, techniques, alternative sexual lifestyles, and the whole gamut of things that first come to mind when sex in space is discussed. The truly uncomfortable reality of sex in space is that the biological purpose of sex is reproduction and artificial birth control sometimes fails. What do we do if an astronaut becomes pregnant?

The adverse health problems that plague humans from prolonged exposure to weightlessness and radiation are well-documented. Adult humans with fully developed bodies have ways to mitigate the health problems that come from living in space.

We can't be certain how weightlessness or even reduced gravity would affect a developing human in the womb or an infant, and we don't know what should be done to protect its health in space. A pregnancy on a long, three-year mission to Mars, for example, would certainly help us learn. But that knowledge would come at the cost of unplanned experimentation on a human being that never consented and couldn't.

Until we know more about the effects the conditions in space would have on a human being in the womb or an infant, the better advice for astronauts on long-term missions to other planets is sublimate, sublimate, sublimate. And if that doesn't work, they should try something that rhymes with sublimate. They can practice the techniques they learned exploring the adult internet.

-tdr

Republished twice to correct errors: affect, effect, whatever.

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Comments:
Favorite paragraph.

In any event, the truly uncomfortable reality of sex in space is not about relationships, morale, techniques, alternative sexual lifestyles, and the whole gamut of things that first come to mind when sex in space is discussed. The truly uncomfortable reality of sex in space is that the biological purpose of sex is reproduction and artificial birth control sometimes fails. What do we do if an astronaut becomes pregnant?

Well spoken. Although it's inevitable that humanity will have to breed in space, it may be wiser to test this on a hard, terrestrial object (i.e. the Moon or Mars) than in the "free for all" known as microgravity.
 
Thanks!
 
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