For the last two weeks the history channel has been advertising an upcoming episode of their show Universe.
Specifically, the ads are for this evening's episode - entitled Sex in Space.
The brilliant physicist and Universe regular, Michio Kaku, is quoted in the short version of the ads saying, "The future of the human race may come down to one question: Can we have sex in outer space."
The implication being, of course, that sex simply may not be possible in zero-gee. And if we can't do it, well, we can't colonize space and sooner or later we'll use up the Earth and that, as the scientists say, will be that.
The long version of the ad shows people attempting to mimic the physical motions necessary for sex in the zero-gee environment of G-Force One, the civilian version of NASA's Vomit Comet. The narrator's voiceover talks about how difficult it is to just maintain position and a grip on your partner.
NASA denies that it has actually studied space sex in detail, and the Russians are even more tight lipped. The ESA, like Europeans themselves, has a more casual attitude towards micro-gravity sex studies - at least admitting that they're interested in such things. Despite this, the ESA studies haven't done much more than show a drop in male astronaut testosterone levels during space flight. However, a number of male shuttle astronauts report what they call the Viagra effect of weightlessness resulting from the redistribution of fluids within the human body due to zero-gee. Apparently, a number of male astronauts experience a certain form of persistent embarrassment that is usually reserved for 14 year-old boys called to the front of the classroom.
Human bodies are designed for gravity, a constant 9.81 meters per second squared, and those big muscles are a danger in space. Start losing control, or get just a little too enthusiastic, in zero-gee and not only are you likely to bounce away from your partner at the most inopportune time, you're very likely to bash your brains out on the equipment racks. Those having sex in space might be well advised to wear helmets and knee pads. Supposedly, there have been studies showing that sex in zero-gee will require the use of Velcro and elastic belts or bungee cords. During this episode of Universe, scientists speculate about foot holds like the kind on water skis, hand holds like the kind used to help handicapped folks into and out of bath tubs, padded tunnels, special suits, and duct tape (it's like the Force: it has a light side, a dark side, and it binds the universe together, and it could very well be the key to sex in space helping the Jedi steady their light-sabers so to speak).
Even if sex is possible in space, nobody may want to have any according to those who've been up there. There's no privacy in space habitats for one thing. Not only are you in close proximity to your shipmates, but you're also being monitored by about 9000 NASA engineers, scientists, doctors, administrators, and very likely the accounting department. So unless you've got the inhibitions of a zoo monkey, be prepared to have the whole world evaluate your technique. In zero Gee, fluids make your face swell up, often giving you a perpetually stuffed up nose. Sniffing and mouth breathing are generally not considered particularly sexy. So far, there isn't a hell of a lot of hygiene in space either, no showers, just the occasional wet nap bath - after a while you're going to smell like combat boots on patrol in Mosel. A significant fraction of spacefarers experience zero-gee motion sickness - difficult to get aroused when you're suffering projectile vomiting, nausea, fever, and shrieking diarrhea. And even if you do mange to keep your lunch down, well, there are other hazards involving the human intestinal track. Air bubbles, for example, tend to remain in solution without gravity. Which means that every swallow of water contains lots of air - which in turn results in, uh, well, gas. Lots of gas. Skylab astronauts reported farting 500 to 600 times a day. Mix that that with some of those Russian freeze-dried borscht and pickled cabbage meals on the ISS and you have a pretty damned effective birth control shield.
Basically what is comes down to here is that sex in space would be a lot like doing it with a Botulism victim in a ripe port-O-potty on a hot summer day with the entire crowd from Woodstock waiting in line outside the door and cheering you on. Toss in a trampoline, a streaming webcam, and the chance of being permanently maimed and you're pretty much right up there on the shuttle.
So, this then is the concern. Scientists just aren't sure the human race will ever have sex off-planet.
Smart guys, no doubt. But have you ever seen one get laid? Yeah, not so much.
Trust me here - people will find a way. They will. People have had sex in refrigerators, bathtubs, trains, drains, and covered in calf's brains. They've had sex with a nun, on a bun, and by the ton. They've had sex dangling from parachutes, in speedboats, upside down in closets, in a crate, on the deck of a rowboat covered in bait, and the backseat of a Volkswagen Beetle on a double date. And I have it on good authority that more than one person had sex with a botulism victim in a ripe port-O-potty at Woodstock while the crowd cheered them on.
Trust me here, NASA Scientists, people will find a way to have sex in outer space.
Send up a couple of seventeen year-olds and order them to stay away from each other.
I give it one day before you find them sharing a spacesuit doing the Bristol Palin.
Really, guys, don't worry about it.