An unmanned Russian space capsule returned to Earth Monday after spending six weeks in orbit for microgravity research. Included in the cargo were five geckos (one male, four female), who it would appear all simultaneously froze to death two days before landing, most likely due to a fault in the thermal control system inside the craft. The geckos were part of an experiment looking at the subject of reproduction in space – something about which virtually nothing is known, despite it being a vitally important topic for the future of long-term space travel and extraterrestrial colonization.
From a purely practical point of view, sex in space will be a more complex activity than here on Earth, mainly due to the lack of gravity. Floating around in microgravity is not ideal when you want to get to grips with someone, as explained by Newton’s Third Law - for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, i.e. pushing against another person will send you both off in the opposite direction from one another. Not ideal!
As the saying goes though, where there is a will there is a way, and the logistics of sex in space can undoubtedly be overcome, however, of much greater concern and something that scientists still know so little about, is the process of fertilization, gestation, birth and development in a low gravity environment. Mankind was shaped by Earth’s gravity – everything in our anatomy and physiology adapted to withstand these gravitational forces – remove this and what will be the effect on or alterations to pregnancy and foetal development in space?