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Infertility Could Impede Human Space Colonization

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the happy-valentine's-day dept.

Mars 360

intellitech writes "The prospect of long-term space travel has led scientists to consider, increasingly seriously, the following conundrum: if travelling to a new home might take thousands of years, would humans be able to successfully procreate along the way? The early indications from NASA are not encouraging. Space, it seems, is simply not a good place to have sex."

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360 comments

Bad things COULD happen. (5, Insightful)

symbolset (646467) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197028)

It's cold out there, and dark. Lots of miles between gas stations. It's full of risks and danger. We haven't got what it takes to do this any more. You go.

We'll wait here by the fire where it's warm. You go: to Mars, the Asteroids, the stars. If you make it back tell us your traveller's tales of petroleum seas, of fields of diamonds, of the strangeness men have become Out There. Write if you find life.

One day the Rock will come, or the Flare, or some other thing. In our final moments it will comfort us that Out There are Men, continuing our journey.

Re:Bad things COULD happen. (5, Informative)

Shimmer (3036) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197084)

Well put. But this article isn't just saying that space is dangerous, it's saying that reproduction is statistically impossible in space without better shielding. That's useful information, not scare-mongering.

Re:Bad things COULD happen. (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197138)

Throw in a lead-lined cryogenic chamber and a turkey baster. Where can I pick up my cheque?

Re:Bad things COULD happen. (0)

symbolset (646467) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197214)

With modern technology a single pair of humans is capable of producing billions of offspring over their reproductive span, and radiation problems are evident in time to abort. Technology is only going to get better and that number will rise to infinity. This is already not a blocking problem. The perception that space is hostile to life, that's a blocking problem. The people who master space will stride forward in full knowledge that there are risks, there is real danger, there will be pain. The point of that post is that we're probably not those people any more and if I want my genome to persist I'll have to teach my kids to speak a foreign language. I'm VERY not happy about that.

Re:Bad things COULD happen. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35197354)

What kind of crack are you smoking?

A: We have no mechanical womb. A single pair of humans is limited to producing in the low double digits of children assuming it is the mother dedicates her entire life to being pregnant.

B: one woman does not have billions of eggs, unless you have magically solved the telomer problem cloning won't help either for the long term.

C: the problem as the article suggests is that the eggs of a female fetus will be sterilized in the later half of pregnancy. That is to late to abort by most peoples standards and can have medical complications for the mother.

Re:Bad things COULD happen. (0)

symbolset (646467) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197400)

A. We have pigs. Pigs will do. Also, interstellar explorers will be more productive if they've had a good breakfast, which can't be done without bacon.

B. Cloning amplifies the millions of eggs per female to billions. Obviously the male side is excessive production.

C. An emotional block to a technical problem. The people who go will be more pragmatic. It's a filter.

Re:Bad things COULD happen. (1)

ardle (523599) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197444)

You son of a sow ;-)

Re:Bad things COULD happen. (1)

Firehed (942385) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197582)

Billions? We're not fruit flies. Even if Gen1 produces 20 females who all start reproducing at age 12 (obviously this biological thought experiment ignores social bounds) and also produce 20 more females, you're "only" at 64m people in Gen7. Who, by the way, are all retarded from all the inbreeding.

Re:Bad things COULD happen. (5, Interesting)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197366)

There's still one simple option: frozen embryos. They could be sent along with the crew, but due to small space required for storage, and minimal requirements, they could be shielded way better than the crew, who requires a lot of room. Infertility doesn't mean inability to give birth to a child. The crew gets to a remote planet, builds a good shelter, women get the embryos (may be just perfectly well their own children, just conceived before start) and give birth to a new generation, preparing for another launch and another "leap". This still limits the range of a single "leap" - between launch and landing - but removes the limitation of "human lifespan distance from Earth".

Re:Bad things COULD happen. (-1, Troll)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197394)

There's still one simple option: frozen embryos.

Yes -- with butter -- betcha can't eat just one!

Re:Bad things COULD happen. (1)

MichaelKristopeit331 (1966802) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197514)

considering the reported problem is embryo attachment, your "option" is little more than "choose to fail differently"

Re:Bad things COULD happen. (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197548)

[citation needed], current in vitro fertilization is a common practice for infertile couples, fertilized egg cells can be stored for indefinitely long time, and TFA speaks about killing egg cells in the embryo during second half of pregnancy, nothing about attachment.

Re:Bad things COULD happen. (1)

pyrosine (1787666) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197390)

Cloning is always an option, provided we develop the technology here first. Would resemble a crew/society like that in the film Aeon Flux - cloning yourself and teaching yourself, recycling all DNA.

Re:Bad things COULD happen. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35197432)

Well put. But this article isn't just saying that space is dangerous, it's saying that reproduction is statistically impossible in space without better shielding. That's useful information, not scare-mongering.

Useful information? I suppose so. Scare mongering? No. Already freaking obvious to anyone who gave a moment's thought to the matter? Pretty much so. Still I suppose Doctors Obvious, Obviouser, and Obviouserer, who must have thought really, really hard, in order to bring us this obvious information should obviously be given a pat on the back for their efforts.

Re:Bad things COULD happen. (5, Informative)

symbolset (646467) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197100)

No man can fully grasp how far and how fast we have come, but condense, if you will, the 50,000 years of man s recorded history in a time span of but a half-century. Stated in these terms, we know very little about the first 40 years, except at the end of them advanced man had learned to use the skins of animals to cover them. Then about 10 years ago, under this standard, man emerged from his caves to construct other kinds of shelter. Only five years ago man learned to write and use a cart with wheels. Christianity began less than two years ago. The printing press came this year, and then less than two months ago, during this whole 50-year span of human history, the steam engine provided a new source of power.

Newton explored the meaning of gravity. Last month electric lights and telephones and automobiles and airplanes became available. Only last week did we develop penicillin and television and nuclear power, and now if America's new spacecraft succeeds in reaching Venus, we will have literally reached the stars before midnight tonight.

This is a breathtaking pace, and such a pace cannot help but create new ills as it dispels old, new ignorance, new problems, new dangers. Surely the opening vistas of space promise high costs and hardships, as well as high reward.

So it is not surprising that some would have us stay where we are a little longer to rest, to wait. But this city of Houston, this State of Texas, this country of the United States was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them. This country was conquered by those who moved forward--and so will space.

William Bradford, speaking in 1630 of the founding of the Plymouth Bay Colony, said that all great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and both must be enterprised and overcome with answerable courage.

- JFK, at Rice University, 7/12/1962 [hbci.com]

Re:Bad things COULD happen. (1)

bronney (638318) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197178)

Thank you. What a great speech.

Re:Bad things COULD happen. (4, Interesting)

sjwt (161428) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197228)

My thoughts on how far we have come is this, my Grandfather was beaten by his dad for suggesting that man would go to the moon after reading some books, and those books where of course thrown out.

Re:Bad things COULD happen. (1)

clickety6 (141178) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197412)

My thoughts on how far we have come is this, my Grandfather was beaten by his dad for suggesting that man would go to the moon after reading some books, and those books where of course thrown out. And to show how far we have yet to go, my mate was beaten by his Grandfather for suggesting that man did go to the moon...

Re:Bad things COULD happen. (3, Funny)

lul_wat (1623489) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197568)

I beat my son for suggesting that after NASA winds down the shuttle we won't go back into space. Next time he crosses me it better be from orbit.

Re:Bad things COULD happen. (3, Funny)

grantek (979387) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197542)

Only five years ago man learned to write and use a cart with wheels. Christianity began less than two years ago. The printing press came this year, and then less than two months ago, during this whole 50-year span of human history, the steam engine provided a new source of power.

Damn creationists...

Re:Bad things COULD happen. (1)

tgetzoya (827201) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197398)

The day is 50 minutes old for me and that is by far the coolest thing I'll read all day.

Re:Bad things COULD happen. (1)

The Cosmist (1990578) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197536)

We're going, don't worry. There are huge challenges to overcome, but sex in space is not one of them. A new Space Age is dawning, and it's global this time. We're going because we have no choice; the colonization of space is necessary for our survival, and for our material and spiritual renewal.

I feel sorry for younger generations who never knew the spirit of Apollo or the cosmic consciousness that was dawning in those early days of the Space Age. They have been given little to aspire to and a rather limited sense of their own future. But this condition is not permanent! I believe a new cosmic religion can overcome this spiritual malaise, and I'm here to spread the word that such a religion exists -- it's called Cosmism!

Look up at the stars tonight and reflect on what they mean; listen to them, and see if you hear their call. I believe the time is coming when many are going to hear that call again -- and this time they will heed it, and the adventure that it brings will last for aeons.

thecosmist.blogspot.com

"There is no way back into the past; the choice, as Wells once said, is the universe—or nothing. Though men and civilizations may yearn for rest, for the dream of the lotus-eaters, that is a desire that merges imperceptibly into death. The challenge of the great spaces between the worlds is a stupendous one; but if we fail to meet it, the story of our race will be drawing to its close. Humanity will have turned its back upon the still untrodden heights and will be descending again the long slope that stretches, across a thousand million years of time, down to the shores of the primeval sea." —Arthur C. Clarke

Re:Bad things COULD happen. (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197540)

Very poetic, this made my day.

Bullshit (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35197038)

Space is a great place to have sex. It may not be a great place to reproduce, but that is a different matter.

Re:Bullshit (1)

Aeternitas827 (1256210) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197212)

Precisely.

In any case, this is something that various space agencies might do well to consider...while I'm sure it's possible to have sex in space, and (for the men) to climax, and thus be able to inseminate a woman, it seems it would be more difficult to a) get to that point, and b) keep the 'guys' in a place where they can do their work. The other area of concern that warrants examination is the interpersonal relationships of any pairs that would exist in space, and any potential fallout if things go wrong. I doubt it would be a good way to go for a space agency to pre-determine mating pairs prior to transit, and even if they did, there would be the potential for those orders to be disregarded in the vicinity of a dark airlock somewhere along the way...and where these things happen, jealousy is sure to rear its ugly head, and threaten the onboard dynamics.

Re:Bullshit (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35197486)

You'd be surprised how much gravity helps with sex...

Home on LaGrange (4, Interesting)

Dadoo (899435) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197530)

Reminds me of something I read a *long* time ago:

Oh, give me a locus
Where the gravitons focus
Where the three body problem is solved
Where microwaves play, down at 3 degrees K
And the cold virus never evolved.

Home, home on LaGrange,
Where the space debris always collects
We possess, so it seems
Two of man's greatest dreams
Solar power and zero-gee sex.

Shit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35197046)

I paid money to make myself infertile (snip, snip). Space could have it done it for free, so to speak.

Re:Shit (1)

Aeternitas827 (1256210) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197216)

Just stick your junk out the airlock, and let the sun do its work, ayuh!

Lack of imagination (4, Insightful)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197050)

The article presupposes that we'll be limited to our present thin-walled spacecraft propelled by chemical rockets. There are other options: we don't even need new technology per se. Something like Project Orion [wikipedia.org] would permit the construction of a craft heavy enough to have effective shielding.

I'm reminded of this famous quip from Napoleon:

"You would make a ship sail against the winds and currents by lighting a bonfire under her deck? Excuse me, I have no time to listen to such nonsense."

Don't dismiss FTL (3, Interesting)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197358)

There's an embarrassing set of experiments [wikipedia.org] that simply won't go away that imply physics isn't as local as relativity would suggest.

Before someone tells me that "absolute simultaneity does not exist", let me point out that there's nothing in our current knowledge of physics against the existence of *one* specially privileged inertial frame having absolute simultaneity, provided that all other inertial frames are relative.

At least for me, it's easier to believe in one inertial frame that allows FTL transportation or communication than to believe in something that makes the universe suddenly grow by 78 orders of magnitude [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Don't dismiss FTL (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35197408)

Quantum entanglement looks FTL, but it isn't FTL. The different particles appear to change in an instant, but you can't really check it before you get classical information about which polarization (or other parameter) to use; if you don't, the reading will be random and then you've lost your chance. As with all things FTL, what the universe enforces is STL of updates. You can seemingly change things outside your light cone, but you can't update anything (turn the seeming into real) until it is inside your light cone.

Now, if you could clone quantum states, or have nonlinear quantum mechanics, then you could have FTL, but neither of these seem very likely. If you had nonlinear quantum mechanics, you could also solve NP-complete problems in polytime.

Re:Don't dismiss FTL (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197436)

let me point out that there's nothing in our current knowledge of physics against the existence of *one* specially privileged inertial frame having absolute simultaneity, provided that all other inertial frames are relative.

The point is that this "privileged" inertial frame is not special. We can make any other inertial frame the "privileged" one, that is, any of the other inertial frames can replace it. This is what is meant by relativity.

Re:Don't dismiss FTL (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197476)

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

- Hamlet, Act I Scene V.

Life finds a way... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35197054)

Seriously, people want to get they freak on. They will not be stopped. :P

Laughable (3, Insightful)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197060)

We can't seem to get our own affairs in order here on planet Earth. What makes you think we won't have infighting and mutiny in a space ship? Within a thousand year trek to the final destination, there might not be anyone left alive by that time!

We're the most innovative of all live as we know it. But, in one form or another we still fling poo. Some things never change regardless of where events take place.

Re:Laughable (2)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197088)

That's why space colonization is important. If we can't hold it together here on earth, having settlers elsewhere will ensure that humanity continues to exist somewhere, and that the cultural contributions of everyone who's lived won't be forgotten.

Re:Laughable (0)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197348)

That's why space colonization is important. If we can't hold it together here on earth, having settlers elsewhere will ensure that humanity continues to exist somewhere, and that the cultural contributions of everyone who's lived won't be forgotten.

Huh! Yes, if we can't hold it here on Earth, let's seed other planets with the same primate-quarrellings culture, then we can enjoy hating each other at interplanetary scale.

Space colonization may be important, but not for the above reason.

Re:Laughable (5, Interesting)

whereiswaldo (459052) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197304)

I'd suggest breaking the problem into two parts:

1) That human kind may someday soon disappear.

2) That all life on Earth will eventually disappear.

Getting humans out of our solar system will take ages. Colonize the moon first. Create factories so more can be done in space (less requirements for launching from Earth).

But first, get _life_ off of this planet. Send some organisms, plants, rats, stuff that is hardy off to Titan or Mars and get something going. That way even if Earth is destroyed, at least there is life somewhere else that can evolve or at least live.

Tired, random thoughts... hope you get the gist of it.

Re:Laughable (2)

Vectormatic (1759674) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197374)

interesting idea, adding some vegetation/microbes to mars might make it a more friendly place (not sure about the atmospheric conditions, but some oxygen producing plants cant be a bad thing can they?)

I wonder if we have anything here on earth that would survive (or even thrive) in martian conditions, but i guess the lack of liquid water is one hell of a hurdle

Re:Laughable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35197492)

Conflict originates with a percieved incompatability of objectives. When you need each-other for survival, in-fighting is rare.

I hardly think... (5, Funny)

dargaud (518470) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197070)

...I'm going to be the first one here to volunteer for a job at Nasa to test that theory about sex in space. With lots of trials if necessary.

Re:I hardly think... (1)

bronney (638318) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197188)

Can we go together? [bestuff.com]

Re:I hardly think... (0)

Aeternitas827 (1256210) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197236)

OmG! Zo PERTY! U liek mE? I'z SHARP as a MARBUL, mi favrit culor iz CLEER! wE gos maek a BAYBIE?!

Au Contraire (4, Funny)

poliscipirate (1636723) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197072)

Women would be unable to become pregnant? On the contrary, it sounds like space is a GREAT place to have sex.

Re:Au Contraire (4, Informative)

Aeternitas827 (1256210) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197246)

It sounds like they would be able to conceive, and be able to carry to term, but any girls born would have a significant chance of being born sterile; I think they indicated this of boys born as well (or the adult males becoming sterile, not sure, but either circumstance is not a good situation). Myself, I think the article intends this as somewhat of a best-case (or, a not-worst-case) scenario; there are certainly worse outcomes that could come of such a pregnancy.

Space... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35197076)

The universes best contraception.

Okay, it's not space = sterility. (1)

Chas (5144) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197092)

It's "if you have crappy shielding, you'll likely kill the fetus".

The solution is simple. Better shielding in such transit vehicles, as well as good shielding once at the destination.

Re:Okay, it's not space = sterility. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35197182)

Great, now conservatives are going to defund NASA because people will go to space to get abortions.

Re:Okay, it's not space = sterility. (1, Informative)

superdana (1211758) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197194)

No, RTFA. The type of radiation found in space sterilizes female fetuses.

Re:Okay, it's not space = sterility. (2)

Supurcell (834022) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197252)

So? The solution would be the same, build better shielding.

Re:Okay, it's not space = sterility. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35197462)

2. ...
3. PROFIT!

How? Radiation shielding consists of putting large amounts of matter between you and the source. That adds a lot of extra mass to the spacecraft.

Re:Okay, it's not space = sterility. (2)

Supurcell (834022) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197560)

Then you have two goals. One goal is to develop shielding that doesn't require so much additional mass to block out the harmful radiation. The other is to develop a means of propulsion that can handle the additional mass.

space sex (4, Informative)

Odinlake (1057938) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197094)

Space, it seems, is simply not a good place to have sex.

The quoted text doesn't really give any reason not to have sex in space - though several for why it is a bad idea to try and have a baby.

Terrible Article, Serious Issue (4, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197098)

As soon as astronauts enter the zero gravity environment they start losing bone mass. Exercise doesn't help - based on spiral CT (so-called QCT) studies which measure bone loss in trabecular bone as well as cortical bone, the problem of bone loss is twice as bad as was once suspected.. it appears the trabecular bone you lose in spaceflight doesn't come back. That is, It may be permanently lost. As for reproduction, experiments with mice done by Russia were inconclusive (as so much of Russian space medicine is) but indicated that the embryo has trouble embedding. So where the article says "try not to get pregnant", there's most likely no chance of that anyway.

That's zero-g, what about partial gravity? The only data we have is from Apollo and no-one stayed on the Moon for long enough - or knew what to look for - to get conclusive results. When people ask "could humans colonize the Moon or other planets?" the answer has to be that we don't know. We'll probably not know conclusively until humans go there with the intention of staying, and making a new generation.

Now stop and think about that for a minute. If your idea of people-in-space is NASA astronauts then I hope you find this suggestion as distasteful as I do. In our modern world governments should not be sending anyone anywhere with orders to reproduce - it just seems a little totalitarian doesn't it? Maybe China will do it. Personally, I'd rather see free men and women go out to the frontier and populate it.

Re:Terrible Article, Serious Issue (2)

bronney (638318) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197208)

I find the idea of bone-loss fascinating because treating bone-loss negatively it assuming the bone would hold up to Earth's gravity, which it won't. But the colonist aren't coming back to Earth. Whether this loss affect the production of blood, etc I don't know. But on a spaceship for 1000 year, we might evolve into something else that "can" live on non-earth-like planets. Isn't that cool?

Re:Terrible Article, Serious Issue (2, Interesting)

Supurcell (834022) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197370)

Any generation of humans that was born and raised in a zero-g environment would not be suited to live on any sort of planet that had gravity. Besides their weakened bones, they wouldn't know how to walk, let alone have the musculature for it. They would be completely reliant on living in an extremely complicated space vessel, perhaps they would be better at it than terrestrial humanoid, but they would never know a forest, or a sunrise, or lake, or even a sky scraper.

Re:Terrible Article, Serious Issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35197292)

RTFA super fail.

Re:Terrible Article, Serious Issue (1)

Fred Ferrigno (122319) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197360)

Now stop and think about that for a minute. If your idea of people-in-space is NASA astronauts then I hope you find this suggestion as distasteful as I do. In our modern world governments should not be sending anyone anywhere with orders to reproduce - it just seems a little totalitarian doesn't it?

Uh, what? Astronauts volunteer willingly. If there are no astronauts who want to go, I'm sure NASA would cancel the mission, but astronauts are usually more eager to push the envelope than NASA is.

Re:Terrible Article, Serious Issue (1)

u17 (1730558) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197406)

Arguably, we already have a solution to the bone loss/zero-G pregnancy problem: use a centrifuge to generate acceleration. By the time we send out humans to spend so much time in space, we will probably have incorporated them into space vessel designs. On the other hand, we still don't have a good solution for space radiation shielding: good shielding takes up large amounts of mass.

Re:Terrible Article, Serious Issue (5, Insightful)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197426)

Goddamnit, why do you people keep dragging the old carcass that has been buried long ago? The same lesson once again: Every deep-space ship in any self-respecting sci-fi movie seems to have a rotating part. Not because it looks cool. But because centripetal force is a very accurate and perfectly sufficient for all practical purposes simulation of earth gravity. 50m radius from axis of rotation, 2.25s per rotation, and you have a neat 1g. And due to 1st Newton's Law and no air friction, it needs only to be started once and requires no power to keep turning. Now go and bury that stinky thing where it belongs.

Re:Terrible Article, Serious Issue (1)

dkf (304284) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197454)

Every deep-space ship in any self-respecting sci-fi movie seems to have a rotating part. Not because it looks cool. But because centripetal force is a very accurate and perfectly sufficient for all practical purposes simulation of earth gravity. 50m radius from axis of rotation, 2.25s per rotation, and you have a neat 1g. And due to 1st Newton's Law and no air friction, it needs only to be started once and requires no power to keep turning.

What we don't know — because we have no data at all — is how little gravity (or equivalent acceleration) is required to maintain a safe level of bone mass. The earth-bound bed-rest experiments don't really cut it because the body remains under gravity the whole time, even if from an unusual direction. Could we survive long-term on lunar levels of gravity? Or if not that, martian levels? If so, it makes building such centrifuges much simpler (less force, less material, less mass, less to launch, less cost).

Re:Terrible Article, Serious Issue (1)

NeverWorker1 (1686452) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197592)

It only needs to be started once....until the spacecraft tries to turn, and the gravity simulation wheel acts as a gyroscopic stabilizer.

Re:Terrible Article, Serious Issue (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35197574)

That's zero-g, what about partial gravity?

I'd rather take the partial gravity of 1G than the FULL gravity of a singularity. But that's just my personal preference, YMMV.

Exercise doesn't help - based on spiral CT (so-called QCT) studies which measure bone loss in trabecular bone as well as cortical bone, the problem of bone loss is twice as bad as was once suspected.

Nah, that's not true- you're vastly oversimplifying things. Aerobic exercise doesn't help much, and we already know that from studying people on Earth who have low bone density problems. The critical factor is stress on the bones- stress builds density. In space, no gravity means no stress, so it's not directly the lack of gravity which is the issue, but the lack of stress.
Simulating gravity by spinning would be fine for bone density purposes, or even high-impact exercise. But it's really hard to do much impact training in zero G on such a tiny space station as we have, so until we can get better facilities we won't know for sure if regular exercise should be ruled out or not.

now I'm confused about... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35197104)

how babby is formed? how girl get pregnant in space?

Zing. (2)

Confusedent (1913038) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197112)

I hereby volunteer for the randomized double-blind study.

Re:Zing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35197264)

You'd better hope it's double-blind!

What if you get the FUGLY one?

Research on psychosocial aspects (1)

drop table user (1517433) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197116)

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/585644_2 [medscape.com] (registration required, use bugmenot service or similar)

The psychosocial implications of in-flight sex and reproduction are at least as problematic as the related physiological challenges. For the foreseeable future, space crews will be relatively small in number. If pairing off occurs within the crew, it can have serious ramifications on the crew's working relationships, and therefore, on mission success and crew operations. Former astronaut Norman Thaggard commented, "[Issues associated with romantic relationships are] just one more problem that can potentially cause the whole thing to come apart."

We won't make it that far (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35197140)

Guess we will extinguish soon

so all humans are like NASA astronaut scientists? (1, Interesting)

MichaelKristopeit331 (1966802) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197148)

hypocritically ignorant story.

slashdot = stagnated

Tawaret (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35197162)

Take along a large statue of Tawaret. That should help. Just don't break it.

titanium beds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35197168)

broke my bed last night here in earth... just imagine what would happen to a weak walled spacecraft... :)

Not A Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35197190)

We just need to pick men with balls of lead.

highly charged protons ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35197196)

TFA says: "Flares are the result of huge explosions in the Sun's atmosphere that catapult *highly charged* protons across space"

Does it mean than a proton can have more charge than 1,602 176 53×10-19 C !?

Space Shielding/Chastity Belt (1)

JumperCable (673155) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197198)

Wouldn't the simple (yet uncomfortable solution) be to create a space chastity belt with extra shielding to protect the gametes during travel. You only need to protect a much smaller area.

And when it comes to failed fetuses, isn't that a self solving problem? Damaged sperm and eggs probably won't make it. But the healthier ones will have a better chance of fertilizing. And so what if you have a larger percentage of miscarriages? That is simply nature sorting life out. All you need are 2-3 healthy babies in the end.

Re:Space Shielding/Chastity Belt (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197464)

There's a much safer and better shielded place for gametes during travel: a small LN2 tub surrounded by 10cm of lead. It's not like we can't fertilize people using frozen gametes. And it's not like they can't land and build a solid, well-shielded base on a remote planet before starting bearing babies.

Gravity (1)

MrQuacker (1938262) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197204)

The problem appears to be that growing up or procreating in zero-gravity causes problems. Solution: Spin the ship to create artificial gravity.

Re:Gravity (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35197274)

RTFA fail.

The first sex in space has already happened (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35197244)

Jan Davis and Mark Lee, or maybe a gay relationship. Have there been any gay couples in space yet? Let's face it NASA won't be telling us (maybe they don't even know)

It isn't the sort of thing which would be announced beforehand and I doubt the astronauts will be revealing anything while they still care about their careers. It will be revealed in old age when they write their memoirs.

Anyway, who cares.

Re:The first sex in space has already happened (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35197380)

I believe that gay sex in space is another thing that the soviets beat the US in.

Or: Cosmic rays may impede generation ships (1)

mentil (1748130) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197258)

Unshielded ships may make female fetuses infertile by killing their eggs. This is no big deal if we're colonizing, say, Mars, as it's only a 6 month trip. If we had a generation ship going to Alpha Centauri this may be a problem, but that doesn't tie into Hawking's assertion that we need to colonize space. This is because colonizing another solar system before colonizing other bodies in our own solar system would be asinine. By the time we've colonized every planet and moon we can set foot on, we'll have the technology to shield our space ships from cosmic rays.

Kirk (1)

aedan (196243) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197260)

I don't know about other people having sex in space but I'm sure that Captain Kirk KAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHN!

in vitro fertilization (1)

asasdlfgnjl (1678718) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197266)

wont work?

Shielding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35197276)

That's absurd. When a serious colonization was made, the ship will be huge and will have enormous shielding, including zero gravity and radiation conditions similar to Earth.
O'neill colonies and similar.

And on moon and planets, the first colonies will be underground, where enough deep will be a good protection until an alternative is ready to allow a beter life "outside" (covered cities).

For now, we should work to industrializate the space, because it takes too much energy to lauch the infraestructure from Earth. We need to have a small buch of robots on the moon to work seriously not only for explore else for build more and more machines, mines, buildings..., using native materials to make a good base to prepare for indefinite human presence.

Re:Shielding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35197578)

Wait, we have zero gravity on earth?

HO HO HO! (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197290)

Tight-lipped

the article quote seems inaccurate (2)

doogless (1863452) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197306)

From the article it sounds like space is a fine place to have sex, just not to be pregnant.

Most of the journey will be in deep space (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35197346)

After a few years the travellers will leave the sun behiind and it will take a helluvalongtime before they reach the next one, so the radiation danger is probably much exagerated.

Here's another problem (3, Interesting)

LordNacho (1909280) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197356)

Interesting medical issue with radiation, but there are other issues with reproduction in space:

1) How do you get people to WANT to shag? The spaceship ain't gonna be big, and there's something called the Westermarck Effect. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westermarck_effect#Westermarck_effect [wikipedia.org] (Hey how do I put in a link with with just "Westermarck Effect" highlighted as the link?)

2) What's a fair way to divide up the shagging opportunities? On Earth, we seem fine with letting unattractive people go unpaired, but on a spaceship, presumably everyone is needed for something. It might be hard to get motivated if you're not getting any.

Re:Here's another problem (4, Informative)

ardle (523599) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197496)

Hey how do I put in a link with with just "Westermarck Effect" highlighted as the link?

Write full HTML for the link, e.g. The Westermarck effect [wikipedia.org] is done by typing "<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westermarck_effect#Westermarck_effect">The Westermarck effect</a>.
You can do quite a lot in this way, e.g. bullet points, italics. If shashcode doesn't like what you've done' it'll strip it.
Try hitting the "Quote Parent" button to get a lump of HTML to play with ;-)

Is this radiation really an issue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35197362)

"high-energy proton particles" ... "even heavier charged particles"

Shouldn't be a sheet of paper sufficient for shielding? Simply add that to the space craft...

Or is it the gamma rays generated when the heavy ones hit the space craft that are causing the issues?

Time dilation (1)

bazmail (764941) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197402)

Our only hope is to create engines capable of pushing our vessels to high speeds as in 0.9c upwards. Let time dilation take care of the rest.

Pracitcal (1)

sijucm (688348) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197418)

"space simply not a good place to have sex"
Have you seen those woman astronauts?

Artificial gravity is a must (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197430)

Giving birth in zero g would be impractical to say the least. The delivery room walls would look like the inside of a blender

Mars is not "thousands of years" w=away (1)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197434)

Summary says ""The prospect of long-term space travel has led scientists to consider, increasingly seriously, the following conundrum: if travelling to a new home might take thousands of years, would humans be able to successfully procreate along the way". But TFA is taking about trips to Mars, not "thousands of years".

Also most of the radiation that is the problem is from the sun. Once a starship is underway, that will be pretty low. And it will have lots of shielding, probably megatonnes of water will be needed for the biosphere anyway.

The usual provocative headline with no relation to the actual facts of the story, which was just a flimsy excuse to print a photo of a naked Jane Fonda.

Godwin's law compels me (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197488)

From TFA: "Our only chance of long-term survival is not to remain inward-looking on planet Earth, but to spread out into space."

Replace planet Earth with Germany and space with Russia, and you have almost a verbatim translation of Hitler's justification for operation Barbarossa.

If I could I would remind the speaker than in the long run, there is no survival, no matter how many worlds we infest.

Re:Godwin's law compels me (1)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197584)

If I could I would remind the speaker than in the long run, there is no survival, no matter how many worlds we infest.

Oh really? Are you entirely sure of that?

And of course, a sci-fi reference [wikipedia.org] ...

StarTreck "science" (1)

slb (72208) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197510)

This is really StarTreck futurism: considering huge improvements in spacefaring techs but with humans beings still stagnating in present biological and cultural levels ... IVF and ectogenesis [wikipedia.org] would be efficient by this time. Even better, extreme longevity [sens.org] would be also granted since it is a precursor to the techs allowing bone loss regeneration and resistance to increased ionizing radiations damage. Space is for transhumans & robots ... Not the likes of captain Kirk guys.

ROFL, Yeah? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35197518)

Ok when I was in basic training, we had port potties that were overflowing with shit. You literally had to stir the shit to level it out so you could take a shit, that's how bad it was. The smell? Awful! However, this didn't stop all the little boys and girls from having sex inside of these port potties late at night. Moreover, I think about 40% of the women in my unit at the time, got pregnant from these port pottie visits.

Now I think to myself, how the hell did two people get inside the shit filled port potties, let along have sex inside of them? People always find ways...

Bad wording (1)

codeButcher (223668) | more than 3 years ago | (#35197562)

Space, it seems, is simply not a good place to have sex.

It's not the "having sex" that is the bad idea. It's "trying to have offspring" that may be problematic.

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