Ever wondered how astronauts have survived inside a closed, isolated space for months and successfully (maybe) turned a blind eye to their human desires?
Yes, they are far away from the ‘Earthly’ cravings and despite their extraterrestrial duties and principles, let’s not forget, astronauts are humans with needs. And with science advancing itself so fast, how have we still not addressed the gamut of sex in the course of space exploration?
While events of space explorations and ‘Mars Mission’ have always hit headlines, international space agencies are yet to come up with any scientific advancement that allows astronauts to make their space journeys needs-friendly.
According to reports, NASA and other space agencies have so long denied the occurrence of any sexual activity in the space.
But why so? Well, there seems to be nth number of troubles when it comes to having sex in micro-gravity.
As per a report by the New York Post, John Millis, a physicist and astronomer, compared having sex in space to having intercourse while “skydiving”. However, he added that it was “not impossible.”
He further explains, “The issues surrounding the act, all revolve around the freefall, micro-gravity, environment experienced by astronauts,” adding, “Imagine engaging in sexual activity while skydiving — every push or thrust will propel you in opposite directions.”
Experts suggest that due to low gravity, the effect of blood flow and pressure in the body impacts one’s sex drive. Micro-gravity makes the blood rise to the head instead of rushing to the genitals, making it difficult for humans to feel aroused.
Adding to it is the constant low pressure felt below the waist level causing the penis tissue to shrivel. Hence a man might shy away when it comes to an erection. Among several other issues caused due to the low gravity, there's also a sudden drop in testosterone levels killing the sexual craving.
Also to state the obvious, even if one manages to have sex in low gravity, it would be highly awkward to see all that sweat and fluid pooling and floating around the spaceship.
A report by Slate.com highlights another issue — the constraint of space and privacy in the big, isolated, spacious space!
The report states that a regular shuttle is about the size of a Boeing 737, and lacks a closed room for astronauts to indulge in privacy. It has two main areas — a crew cabin and a middeck, which are often described as small offices. This leaves them with a bathroom. However, the restroom, too, is just little more than a seat with a curtain.
Besides, astronauts have little time left for some rumpy-pumpy after attending to their hectic schedule. However, it has been reported that the crew members do have their designated week-offs when they "generally have a good time."
Then, does it mean people have never attempted to pleasure themselves during their long stint of floating? We don’t know. Although speculations have been rampant, it’s yet to be addressed.
In 2008, speaking to Space.com, Bill Jeffs, spokesperson for NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, had said, "We don’t study sexuality in space, and we don’t have any studies ongoing with that. If that’s your specific topic, there’s nothing to discuss."
NASA has a policy to not let married couples travel together to space missions. However, an exception was made in 1991, when the agency allowed the first married couple to embark on a mission together. It was reported that Jan Davis and Mark Lee, the "training-camp sweethearts got secretly married very close to the launch date." But both had later refused to answer any question in this regard.
In another chain of whispers, a Russian astronaut, Valery Polyakov was rumoured to have drawn close to fellow astronaut Elena Kondakova during their time together in the Mir Mission for 14 months.
But, the Kremlin had strongly denied such claims and the New York Post reported that Polyvakov did admit to "being tortured by thoughts of randiness while on his long and arduous mission".
So can nothing be done to douse these thoughts and desires? Experts have suggestions to make.
Few of the firsts to consider are sex toys, virtual or augmented partners, erotic chatbots and erotic robots or erobots.
According to Space.com, erobots can be a practical solution to tackle ‘the inhuman conditions of space exploration and colonization.’ It adds, ‘erobots could enable the crew to approach questions of intimacy and sexuality in space from scientific, relational and technological perspectives.’
Going by the NY Post report, sci-fi author and inventor Vanna Bonta even came up with an outfit for the application of human intimacy in space. The '2suit' was reported to facilitate movement and allow the wearers to engage in sexual intimacy because of its unique design. However, not much has been reported on its implementation.
To end with, we must begin to discuss harnessing our tech-know-how that will make spaceships more human-compatible and make ‘out of the world’ sex a true, reality.