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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.


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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on July 23, 2006 11:47 AM.

Space And The Environment was the previous entry in this blog.

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