Gettin' Jiggy in Space
Blame Taylor Dinerman; I just read his titillating article in The Space Review, The first orbital honeymoon: the next step in space tourism? Taylor has some, let's just say, romantic ideas for a "major breakthrough for space tourism" (which thankfully, Jeff did not wait until Valentine's Day to publish). Seems sex can always be counted on as a big draw, and not just at home or on the home planet. (By the way, didn't Virgin Galactic announce honeymooners George Whitesides of NSS and his bride, Loretta Hidalgo had signed-up to be the first couple to fly to orbit? Astronotes, July, 27, 2005)
Well what's wrong with proposing a new venue for human close encounters? In investigating the question, Is Sex Necessary?, Alan Farnham, in Forbes concludes, "The best that modern science can say for sexual abstinence is that it's harmless when practiced in moderation. Having regular and enthusiastic sex, by contrast, confers a host of measurable physiological advantages, whether you're male or female."
(And yes, he got paid for that.)
But last October, those buzzkills at the US National Academy of Sciences issued some new warnings about the one kind of sex nobody has ever had (or at least admits to) -- sex in space.
Apparently it took a panel of top research scientists to worry up the idea of a 30-month mission carrying a crew of six to eight vigorously healthy, adventuresome people in close quarters to a distant planet turning into Desperate Spacewives. Alas, the panel warns, spaceflight sex on the way to Mars could derail the mission.
In the book, Spacefaring: The Human Dimension, (chapter 11, Sex in Space)Albert A. Harrison observes,
NASA has avoided few topics as studiously as the subject of sex in space. Given the selection of "right stuff" male astronauts, the brevity of the missions, and the close monitoring of life aboard the spacecraft, sex was not much of an issue during the early days. In later years, public pressures may have contributed to NASA's avoidance of the topic. NASA's approach to congressional support and funding rests in part on not annoying any appreciable segment of the population. Since sex outside of marriage (or even within marriage but at taxpayer expense) still runs against the grain of some Americans, NASA's avoidance of the topic is understandable.Of course, commercial space tourists would not be having sex at taxpayer expense, as would astronauts on a government payroll.
Inevitably, as earthlings lose their space virginity, some will suggest that on a long space mission, civilization should worry if Earth's envoy's are not having cosmic sex. Out there among the stars, sexlessness just doesn't seem ...human.(See the discovery of "two fossils fused together in sexual union for 65 million years." OK, they were slime mold cells, but it was pure lust.)
In any case, the Academy recommends further study.
(Volunteers? Don't e-mail me. Really, don't. Please. Don't... Stop...)
(** image credit: Space Tourism Society)