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« Space And The Environment | Main | Wrap Up »

S3x In Space

OK, this is what you've obviously all been waiting for. The last session of the conference, after which I get back to the usual blather...

The panelists are Laura Woodmansee, a science writer who has apparently just written a book about the subject of extraterrestrial copulatory activity (ECA), Vanna Bonta (a writer and poet, according to her placard, not to mention voice actress--not sure why voice only, the camera is certainly not unfriendly to her) and Dr. James Logan, former Chief of Flight Medicine (and other similar titles) from NASA.

Bonta led off by presenting Woodmansee with a Fisher Space Pen in congratulations for her book. Pens and sex are toosl that bring new things into being. Also praising Bob Bigelow for converting missiles to launchers.

"What happens in space, does not stay in space." People are closely monitored. "[ECA] is not just a good idea, it's survival." We're going to settle space, and we need whole brains (science and poetry) to succeed. S3x does not take rocket science. Life is creation and structure, and even poetry is engineered. Burt Rutan is one of the greatest poets today. Continual symbiosis between engineering and poetry (seeking of beauty is a human purpose). ECA is ultimate in poetry and science. S3x is about recreation, companionship, progeny. [Really tough to convey this talk with a real-time blog post. Talking and showing slides] Another benefit of weightlessness (which is an aesthetic) is great hair, but don't accept substitutes (shows a spray-on weightless hairstyle.

Physiological issues: deyhydration, possible 3r3ctile dysfunction due to loss of blood in lower body. More sweating, and coupling will spew various fluids that will be hard to manage. However, love will find a way, for long missions, compatibility should be predetermined.

Ideal foreplay might be hydroroom, with fluid orbs to play with in enclosed space, with varying size, speeds and fragrances of water drops. Stabilization will require hand and footholds in cubicles. Space Adaptation Syndrome may be a problem. Bring mouthwash, and don't get too wild until afterwards. Really hard to keep mass of bodies together (based on her experiment with a kiss on a Zero-G aircraft ride). Suggests a "two suit" with nylon or velcro zippers to connect at the top, with diaphanous interior clothes that spread out in weightlessness, to just chill and float and stay together. Varoius fabrics should be available, with "sensible underwear' attachable to wall spaces.

Talking about "the higher purpose." Creating children in space. We've been having sex in space for thousands of years, just under one gravity. Our dreams and powers of creation distinguish them. ECA has its up sides, some of which we know, and some of which are unknown. In-vitro fertilization may work in weightlessness. This is the most important thing we can explore for the future of our species [Hey, I'm just typing what she says]. It's our birth right. May the continuum be unbroken.

Jim Logan up now. Notes that this audience is part of the hard core. His mother will be very pleased when she hears that he's on this panel.

"Aside from the thrill, what's the big deal?" Disclaimer: not representing the agency--came here on his own dime. NASA has been by, of, and for engineers. That has to change. What comes after ECA is very important. Thinks that fantasy may be superior to reality about weightless s3x will be. But thinks that simulating choreographed action in weightlessness will be very stimulating to view (if not choreographed, will just be a flail).

We come up with countermeasures for weightlessness, and the ultimate countermeasure is returning to gravity. Existing countermeasures are inadequate. Been spending about thirty million dollars a year on critical-path roadmap items, and not a single one has been retired--this is one. Weight of the fetus up to eighteen weeks is small on earth and in an essentially weightless environment, but after twenty-one weeks or so starts to experience gravitational loading. Can't use countermeasures on fetus, and bone development in a weightless environment will be major issue. Gross developmental milestones (sitting, standing walking) could be delayed. Could be impossible to ever make critical brain connections in weightlessness. In mice we mimic immune-system problems due to weightlessness with simple hind-limb suspension, so gravity is very, very important to development. There's been a lot of changes in the earth over three billion years, but one thing has been constant in evolution--gravity.

Considers it extremely naive to imagine a weightless civilization. We take or make, our own air, we take or make our own food. We will have to take our own gravity. We still have no idea what the gravity prescription is. After forty-five years, we don't know the dose, the frequency or the side effects. We have to lobby for more research to understand this. We have to decide whether space is a sortie or stay destination. It is possible that one-sixth gee won't be enough, which means the moon is out as a frontier destination, until we make some serious medical progress. Same argument applies to Mars--we may need more than one-third gee. Whatever gravity prescription is, it probably won't be one size fits all. All we know is that one gee works.

If not now, when? In the long term, the tall pole in the tent is life sciences, not rockets. The future of space will not be pioneering, it will be bioneering. Historically, if humans couldn't adapt to their environment, they didn't survive.

Laura Woodmansee talking about her book on the subject. Not a scientist, but has a deep interest in science and space. Subject makes everyone giggle. But humans take their sexuality everywhere they go. It's going to happen, there will be weddings and honeymoons in orbit, and we have to start taking it seriously. Book is about both the fund part and the serious part. Looking at the future as a mother, and the concerns about gestating and raising children in that environment.

First chapter is about the question everyone wants to know. Many rumors exist. There was controversy about Mark Lee and Jan Davis, a married couple went into space, and declined interviews. Another issue is pr0n in space. There was an attempt to do a film on Mir, but it didn't work out. She wishes that it had happened, because it might have generated interest in space. Quote from Gene Roddenberry--"I guarantee you it happened, for no reasons other than common sense."

Talking about "docking maneuvers," and need for restraints. Rooms will have to be designed. No convection, so cooling will be a problem. Will need fans, and privacy. "Initial awkardness will detract from the romance, so it will take practice to make perfect."

Third topic is about new life in space (subject of Jim Logan's talk). She is very concerned about the subject, from conception, through gestation, to delivery (which could be disastrous). Drugs work differently. Unanswered question: do oral contraceptives work in weightlessness? Are they testing to ensure suppression of ovulation? Is conception even possible? Animals indicate yes, but can't necessarily extrapolate. Biggest issues are gravity and radiation. Our descendants in space will adapt to space, and become aliens.

NASA and other agencies have an archaic view of this subject, viewing it as something separate from life, rather than a part of it. What kind of crews would be good for long journeys, what would he sexual and relationship issues be like? How will it affect off-planet cultures? Might there be laws against reproduction in areas in which resources are limited? PAO at NASA was very frustrating. They were in denial. Book was based on people willing to talk to her outside of NASA, with many disclaimers. Interested to see reaction to book when it comes out. Agency has a "deep cultural discomfort zone."

She thinks that this is the "killer app" for space tourism. Talking about "heavenly bedroom," with stars and privacy.

Question for Dr. Logan: will going into space restart the evolution process that we've slowed with our technological adaptations? A: Evolution never stopped, and it will continue in space.

Question: will NASA, or who, take on a settlement-based investigation of these issues (as opposed to NASA's Mars-mission-based approach). Dr. Logan says that NASA doesn't do frontiers. NASA does vehicles. Should look elsewhere.

Vanna telling anecdote about arriving at conference, and someone in hotel said, "are you going to that conference on s3x in space." She answered that she was presenting on that subject, and the reply was "...but you don't look like an engineer." Reiterates earlier point that our humanity has to be integrated with the technology, and that NASA cannot continue to ignore this issue.

Now she's raising the bioethical question about whether or not it would be ethical to conceive a child in such an unknown environment. In Logan's opinion, seventeen-percent decrease in muscle mass of the fetus is over the line.

Logan is pointing out that water is dangerous to human beings. We had to develop technology to isolate ourselves from it. Earth shouldn't be called earth. It should be called "Water." Space should be called "Radiation." We will have to learn to protect ourselves from it. He's also pointing out that if we can live in reduced gravity environments, he'd love it, particularly as he gets older, because there'd be much less damage from falls. Also notes that there are major problems with artificial gravity as well, which is actually a good thing, because it will force us to large structures.

Ben Muniz pointing out that getting to orbit is simple engineering, whereas this is a critical research issue that NASA continues to ignore. Logan agrees that this is a critical issue, and one that someone must address. Asking this group to actively make connections to the life sciences community, because both the New Space people and that world have things to teach each other. Life Science at NASA is a cultural problem. Engineers don't like gray areas, but in Life Science, the only on and off are life and death, and everything else in between is fuzzy. [I'll not that this is another instance of Snow's two cultures.] Logan says there's also a political dimension to this. He speculates that some people who want to colonize Mars might not actually want to know the answer, because they might not like it.

Rick Tumlinson pointing out that there used to be conferences that talked about these kinds of issues, at Princeton (which are starting up again next spring). But in the early eighties, everyone thought that the Shuttle had solved the transportation problem so we shifted our thoughts to destinations. But as we discovered that was a mistaken notion, all of our energy has gone back into the transportation problem, and we've ignored this fundamental one. Thinks we need to add more sessions on this subject in future conferences.

Posted by Rand Simberg at July 23, 2006 11:47 AM
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As I have been posting for years, the ability to have babies "out there" is the only definition of spacefaring that will really matter in the long run.

Everything else is just high tech camping.

Next, whichever subset of humanity successfully makes the most babies "out there" will some day (or century) discover that the solar system belongs to them.

Posted by BIll White at July 23, 2006 01:16 PM

I've said all along that we may have to brace ourselves with the notion that what ends up surviving in space may look nothing like us. I'm highly disappointed in George Bush's decision to veto the Stem Cell research bill. I understand that there are workarounds and other methods but this sends the message out there that a lot of people are afraid of what we will become if such research continues. We very well have to adapt to space to survive on the high frontier. By and large I think a huge part of getting a jump start on that adaptation would be through the use of genetic manipulation.

Otherwise, I suppose a way to work out this problem would be through some great discovery in artifical gravity. Gravity is the one law of nature that doesn't really behave like any other physical property. When you think about it the Earth is so large yet even my tiny 6'2" frame can manage to jump free from its grasp by my own power ,if not for only a short time. Even a table has the power to oppose the Earth's attraction on a falling pencil. Its thought that gravity is slipping in and out of different dimensions. In our dimension gravity reaches a certain threshold and then slips into an alternate dimension where gravity is all consuming powerful force that is so strong that we even faintly feel it in our own. In space it maybe possible to manipulate that threshold and "collect" gravity by slowing its ebb and flow to an alternate dimension.

Anyways, what is a simple sci fi trick in a every space movie would be a enormous boon to interstellar survival.

Posted by Josh Reiter at July 23, 2006 07:44 PM

Fascinating post. I have to think that the study of sexual intimacy in space has more to do with psychological well-being of the astronauts than procreation. It is likely that sexual intimacy of some sort would increase the chances of success of a long mission to Mars, with no thought to having Mars babies.

However, before we can claim to be "colonizing space" we will definitely have to figure out how to have babies in space. And there are definitely issues there that need lots of research. For example, can we expect an embryo to develop at all, much less properly, in a weightless environment? Who knows?

Posted by CosmicConservative at July 23, 2006 10:58 PM

Watching the national news headlines I saw very little if anything regarding the conference until this:

I guess next year there might be more national press if this were to lead the conference.

Posted by at July 23, 2006 11:07 PM

Shouldn't a distinction be made between s3x in zero gee and s3x in space? It would probably be better on the moon than Earth.

Posted by B.Brewer at July 24, 2006 06:28 AM

We do know that other animals have successfully given birth in micro-gravity environment. So NASA has some knowledge that it is possible, that embryo development can occur, and that birth is possible.

Posted by Leland at July 24, 2006 08:32 AM

On the moon, you'd be stronger than the environment required. It'd like trying to adjust a picture frame with a hammer.

Posted by MWW at July 25, 2006 02:29 AM

Distinctions about varying gravity were made. Bonta presented an overview of lunar 1/6 and Mars 1/3, and pointed out that for that matter people have been having sex on Earth (gravity), and the unknowns that need to be quantified can include varying gravity.
One of the important things that came out of this session was the call to focus on the gravity prescription needed for humanity to become space faring. CGBR has been testing in the area but there's been nothing conclusive in 45 years of space flight. Check out their website for major studies they're doing. (Center for Gravitational Biology research)
Like Jim Logan responded to Vanna Bonta, it's complicated but it would narrow down the specifics of colonization -- what do we rule out, do we bring our own gravity with us, etc. Vanna Bonta also touched on the emotional effects of lack of geavity. Apparently she flew in microgravity and kissed in it. She commented on the sensation of no attraction between masses from a urely gravitational sense. There was a cool garment she designed for chilling that would also recreate the feeling of close proximity (Bonta said she came up with it after experiencing the amount of effort it took to connect in zero g). NASA physician Jim Logan recommended that engineers need to connect with Life Sciences. Vanna Bonta brought a level of wit (she has a great sense of humor) that made some cool insight, innovation, and call to action the right prescription. The session was a prescription for humanity. Anyone catch it streaming? Bonta's overview of the symbiosis between poetry (vision, creativity, invention, aesthetic) and engineerng (structure, mechanics) was brilliant. Really cool. Does anybody know if it's going to air anywhere ? It was taped. will it be for sale?
Transterrestrially yours, great blog, and Seth you said she's also a voice actress. I mused with you why mostly voice since the camera really likes her (no kidding) she's brilliant but good question & found this on that:
can't post url but search vanna-bonta-set-to-record-flight.htm
hail the internet.
muse on. Ad luna.

Posted by stephen at July 25, 2006 11:31 PM

Another fascinating thing (there were so many) Vanna Bonta brought up the ethical implications of human embryos changing radically in space environs --such as mega % of decreased skeletal formation evidenced in z-g pregnancy experiments with rats. All kinds of interesting speculation there up for discussion, do you let it go to term etc.

Posted by stephen at July 25, 2006 11:41 PM

All kinds of interesting speculation there up for discussion, do you let it go to term etc.

Eventually, you'll have to just let it go to term to find out what happens. Unfortunately, there are some things that just can't be simulated by computers or animal testing. I'm sure that our ancestors tried all sorts of strange and wicked things during the course of gaining upright mobility. Our current ethics are partly due to the fact that we now have a better biological and technological understanding of life and life processes. However, someone will eventually have to stand up to the "all life is sacred" crowds and start finding out what happens to fetal development in microgravity, moon gravity, etc. Eventually, with enough experimentation, we should be able to pro-create in space, either through technological advances or pure mutation.

It can be a disturbing subject to some, but considering mortality rates in the early part of our development as humans, it shouldn't be THAT out of line to try to evolve off of Earth.

Posted by John Breen III at July 26, 2006 08:02 AM

Excellent point! Agreed.

Posted by at July 26, 2006 03:29 PM

RE comment: I guess next year there might be more national press if this were to lead the conference.-->
It's probably a mix of factors. Hot topic no doubt but not a reliable seller in and of itself. I think the way it was presented hit the Z-G spot. The presentation was key and the unique interestign originality. The presentation was hot. Why some people are talked about and others not -- it's obvious when see it for yourself and self-explanatory.

Posted by D at July 27, 2006 03:39 AM

Is the book going to contain anything different from Noonan's thesis?

Posted by at July 27, 2006 03:46 AM

RE: Sex in Space BOOK: "Is the book going to contain anything different from Noonan's thesis?"

YUP!!! See for yourself:

Besides, it's NOT a textbook ... Pasted from the author's web site:
"SEX IN SPACE balances the giggle factor with the more serious scientific questions that arise when we think about the possibilities of sex and reproduction in space. This book covers everything that you think it does, and a lot more! This provocative account reveals the truth about romantic rendezvous in Earth orbit and beyond.

SEX IN SPACE By Laura S. Woodmansee.

Foreword by Rick Tumlinson of the Space Frontier Foundation.
Introduction: What Kind of a Book is Sex in Space?
Chapter 1: Has Anyone ‘Done It’ in Space?
Chapter 2: How to Make Love in Space.
Chapter 3: Making Space Babies: Conception, Pregnancy, and Birth.
Chapter 4: Sex on the Brain and Lust in Space.
Chapter 5: To Infinity and Beyond!

Learn what the space agencies are too embarrassed to talk about. Has anyone “done it” in space? Have astronauts and cosmonauts practiced “docking maneuvers” or run secret sex experiments in orbit? Sex in Space separates the hard facts from the sci-fi stories.

How would two people make love in zero gravity? Discover the physics and science of sex in space. Find out what devices might assist lovers in space.

Can a child be conceived in space? If so, what will happen to the first baby born in space? Learn how reproduction in space is different than on Earth. Find out what the national space agencies are not researching and why. Discover how children born on the Moon, Mars, or space colonies might differ from Earth-born humans.

The age of space tourism is just beginning and honeymoons in space have already been booked! Sex in zero-gravity is the ‘killer app’ of space tourism. Hotel suites are being designed for zero-gravity sex in Earth orbit and Earthlings will soon be able to join the “100-Mile High” club. Imagine making love among the stars. What might your future space hotel suite be like?

These questions are thoughtfully answered, while science fiction myths about interstellar intercourse are dispelled. From chemistry to psychology, this exploration runs the reproductive and sexual gamut. Sex in Space is for anyone with a natural curiosity about sex and an interest in the future of humanity in space. Don’t miss out! Learn what the future holds for Sex in Space. SEX IN SPACE by Laura S. Woodmansee
Available in AUGUST 2006. Sex in Space is published by Apogee Books: ISBN 1894959442. Copyright Laura S. Woodmansee and Apogee Books/C.G. Publishing"

I'm sure the author doesn't mind my posting it here!

Posted by lfwspace at July 28, 2006 03:07 PM

Sounds good. Look forward to it! Here is more reading on the subject for those of you who got as, er, interested as I did. Combine the URL, it's not porn but the triple X factor is prohibting posting: add (remove spaces!)

Astro/ S e x x xInSpace.htm

Posted by stevesworld at July 28, 2006 09:36 PM

trying again...remove spaces! S e x x xInSpace.htm

Posted by stevesworld at July 28, 2006 09:37 PM

Hey, this all is so cool! I'm glad that you're all enjoying the subject :) I wrote an op-ed for earlier this month about sex in space, in case you're interested: (


Laura Woodmansee

Author of "Sex in Space"


Posted by Laura Woodmansee at August 19, 2006 11:46 PM

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