July 28, 2006 at 8:30 PM ET
Sex sells ... even when it comes to buying a ride in space. "As Laura Woodmansee, the author of "Sex in Space," put it last weekend at the NewSpace 2006 conference, sex could be "the killer app for space tourism."
Of course, it will be years before spaceships offer the right environment for romance. We still don't even know exactly how candlelight works in zero-G. But the questions surrounding how we might conduct our lives in space - ranging from birth to childhood to sex to family life to aging to death - ought to be a "killer app" for space research.
Here are some of your thoughts on the subject of space sex:
Woodmansee and other students of the subject, including author Vanna Bonta and NASA physician Jim Logan, said that hooking up in zero-G would be trickier than earthly intimacy. But Dennis McClain-Furmanski, longtime Cosmic Log correspondent as well as a longtime member of the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists, was sure that love would find a way:
"As a psychologist, I am confident when I state that those things which the engineering types present as 'problems' will be, to the humans involved, only 'conditions under which.' Sweat? Uncomfortable positions which you can't seem to maintain? A 'wild flail'? Good grief, that's the conditions under which many of the 7 billion of us were created. While the engineers call for assistance devices and choreography as though it were a spacewalk, I have full confidence in the one human drive greater than the one to explore. If NASA really feels the need to provide a technological fix for this 'problem,' they can simply install the back seat out of a car. All those 'problems' occur there and are almost invariably overcome."
Xeni Jardin posted some comments about the story on Boing Boing - including this recollection:
"I went on a zero-gravity flight once with a bunch of astronauts and journalists. Also on board were two guys who won tickets on a radio contest. If memory serves, one of them worked in an auto shop. I was talking with them between floating parabolas, and one of them made a joke about sex in space, and I asked something like - are you guys thinking about that, really? Because all I could think about at the time was not vomiting or bonking my head on the roof when I flew through the air. Sex was the last thing on my mind. The two guys looked at each other and were silent for a moment. Then they burst into extended dude-laughter, and one said, 'Well OF COURSE! Guys always think about that!'"
The "2suit" for zero-G intimacy.
Some observed that Bonta's Velcro-and-zipper design for the "2suit" is way too sensible for intimate apparel, and that there should be more of a stilettos-and-straps look to space fashion.
Bonta's presentation included a couple of other designs that were lot racier (and probably not suitable for a family publication). But you'd have to be careful with stilettos and other sharp objects in zero-G - you might poke somebody's eye out during your "wild flail."
Another Cosmic Log correspondent, T. Hays, stepped back to look at the bigger picture:
"I don't get this article. Instead of imagining how weightlessness affects sex or anything else for that matter, and also considering how detrimental weightlessness is for the human body, why aren't the space scientists figuring out how to provide gravity to people in outer space. What about something like the space station in 2001 that rotated? How hard would it be to rotate a 60-foot tube? Or two or more connected tubes, You get whatever gravity you want depending on the speed. End of problem. Duh! Or am I the idiot here?"
That was indeed the bottom line for NASA's Jim Logan: More research needs to be done on all aspects of space biology, ranging from conception to old age. Because gravity-loading appears to play an essential role in skeletal development and even post-natal neural development, zero-G might have to be an adults-only zone.
The role of gravity in the aging process is another important area for research - and John Glenn's shuttle mission back in 1998 just scratched the surface. In a reduced-gravity environment, those aging bones wouldn't ache as much, and your heart wouldn't have to beat as hard. On the other hand, zero gravity is known to lead to the loss of bone mass and muscle mass - so it's not at all clear how old folks would fare.
We don't even know how reduced-gravity environments - for example, the one-sixth gravity of the moon or the one-third gravity of Mars - would affect phases of life ranging from conception to death. That's why experiments like the Mars Gravity Biosatellite Program would be so intriguing.
If we hope to see humans living permanently on the moon, Mars and beyond - and yes, having sex and raising families - we'll have to expand space research rather than cutting it back.
Feel free to register your comments on the silly and serious sides of space sex studies - but remember, kids, keep it clean.