Has Anyone Had Sex In Space?

When it comes to sending humans into space, scientists must take into account a variety of natural human functions and how to deal with them in the harsh environment that is outer space. Indeed, this is particularly important for long-term assignments lasting weeks or even months. Perspiration, menstruation, and urination/defecation are all natural human bodily processes that take place whether in space or on the ground, and there's no avoiding them while up there. Understandably, spacecraft and spacesuits need to be prepared to deal with these things.

However, there's another natural human activity that comes with its own unique set of problems on a spacecraft in microgravity. Here on Earth, sex is an utterly mundane thing, but in space, the list of potential problems it could cause is endless. Nevertheless, the day is coming when space missions could last five years or more, if not decades, and the matters of sex and reproduction are going to have to be addressed.

No one has had sex in space (that we know of)

We've been sending humans into space since 1961 (per NASA), and we've been sending them up two (or more) at a time since 1964 (via Space.com). And of course, for decades now, crews of space missions have at times included both men and women. As such, we've had decades of opportunities for astronauts to do the ultimate science experiment. But has anyone ever done so? "Not in the U.S. space program," a NASA spokesperson told The Straight Dope columnist Cecil Adams in 1997.

In fact, there are plenty of reasons why having sex in space is going to be impossible, impractical, or just a generally bad idea. First and foremost is the matter of microgravity, which Adams promptly noted wasn't necessarily an insurmountable problem, writing, "Give me 10 minutes and some Velcro, and I bet you I'd figure something out." There's also the lack of privacy, the fact that astronauts are on the clock at all times, and the fact that sex involves the production and ejection of bodily fluids. Long story short: In a practical sense, space missions and sex just aren't compatible with each other.

We're eventually going to have to deal with this

For now, most astronauts spend about six months on their missions, according to the Kennedy Space Center. But the space community has its eyes set on Mars (pictured above), both for human exploration and possibly human settlement. Getting there and back is going to be a matter of years, not months, and we may very well be sending married (hetero) couples up there with the aim of populating the planet, says FiveThirtyEight. That means that science is concerned with all aspects of sex — or more specifically, reproduction — in space. Some of the problems include the effects of radiation on the reproductive organs, how microgravity affects ovulation (female mice stopped ovulating when we sent them up), and fetal development in microgravity, among many, many others.

Kris Lehnhardt, an assistant professor in the department of emergency medicine at The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, told Space.com that we can't keep putting off having this discussion. "If we want to become a spacefaring species and we want to live in space permanently, this is a crucial issue that we have to address that just has not been fully studied yet," he said.