A little problem in space

At current speeds of space travel, it would take humans several hundred years to reach the closest known habitable planet outside our solar system.  That seemed to suggest that if Homo sapiens is going to colonize a planet beyond our immediate neighbourhood, we would have to spend several generations in a space ship.

Since even now we could get there in less than two years, the biggest problem we thought we had with colonizing Mars, though, was the planet itself – the cold, an adequate supply of oxygen, water, and food.

But researchers are now suggesting the possibility that we may have a more fundamental problem.  Sex in space might be seriously dangerous to health.

If this sounds like a tasteless joke, it isn’t.  Scientists have known for some time that reproductive cells on Earth can sense gravity.  Tests are now suggesting that cells’ response to gravity is not just incidental, and that changes in gravity affects processes involved in reproduction.  Earth’s gravity is also significant in controlling illness and disease, and it now looks as if sexual activity by humans beyond Earth could trigger serious brain disease and various kinds of cancer.  In other words, sex in space could kill you.

That might require astronauts headed for Mars or planning on setting up a home-away-from-home there to abstain from sex for years.  It would also make it impossible to colonize another planet with new generations born there.

Unless, or until, scientists figure out how to circumvent the deadly effects of leaving the comforting grip of Earth’s gravity.


About Terry Sissons

Terry Sissons is the author of The Big Bang to Now: All of Time in Six Chunks, and this blog is a dialogue about the universe and what’s happened in the last 13 billions years.
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