Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Sex in Space – A Taboo?

By David Reneke

Dave Reneke brings news from the space and astronomy communities around the world.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

According to three prominent scientists, having sex and getting pregnant in space is not a good idea. The radiation hazards of space are just too dangerous, they say.

Female astronauts sent to colonise Mars would be well advised to avoid getting pregnant en route because high energy particles bombarding the ship would almost certainly sterilise any female foetus conceived in deep space, making it that much more difficult to establish a successful Mars colony once the crew lands.

“The present shielding capabilities would probably preclude having a pregnancy transited to Mars,” said radiation biophysicist Tore Straume of NASA. The DNA that guides the development of a fertilised embryo and the functioning of all body cells is easily damaged by the kind of radiation that would bombard astronauts on a Mars voyage – and ultimately on the surface of the planet itself.

Although difficult to predict, solar flares are another hazard spewing high-energy protons across the solar system. Studies in non-human primates have found that even relatively low doses of ionising radiation in space are sufficient to kill most of the immature egg cells in a female foetus during the second half of pregnancy.

If those results translate equally to people, then a female conceived in interplanetary space might well be born sterile because of damage to her eggs. “One would...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.