sexual activity in space
Consider just one factor-sex. NASA psychologist
B.J Bluth likens a short spaceflight to a date, a long one to marriage.
Maybe a Mars crew should consist entirely of married couples. An
element of stability, of old-show comfort, would be introduced by
having one's husband or wife to fall back on. Certainly a singles-bar
atmosphere, a charged mixture of sexually unattached cimpetitors
would be a disaster. An all-male or all-female crew would alleviate
some of these problems but would clearly introduce others. In the
final analysis, sex may be ignored and the selection made on the
basis of competency alone.
Cole Porter put it this way " Birds do it, bees
do it...Let's do it. Let's fall in love." If human nature holds
true to form, place travelers will do it too. At least that's how
experts like Dr. Patricia Santy, a psychiatrist at the University
of Texas in Galveston feel. "It's foolish and perhaps dangerous
to pretend that a long-duration mission will differ from any office
where you have men and women working together," she recentyly told
The New York Time. "Sex is a normal part of human behavior. It happens
in office. It happens in Antartica. It happens wherever you have
males and females.
So far the study of the need, likelihood, or advisability
of sex in space remains unexplorated territory. Neither NASA nor
any other space agency has seriously addressed the question. But
talk to assigning crew members of both sexes to the planned international
space station Freedom, and renewed dicussions of long missions to
Mars, have made it difficult to ignore the issue any longer.
Approaches to the problem have ranged from assigning
crews of all men or all women to sending only married coupples to
avoiding the question altogether. Former Apollo astronaut Michael
Collins recommends sending married couples to Mars. "An element
of old shoe comfort," he writes in his book, Mission to Mars, "would
introduced by having one's husband or wife to fall back on" rather
than what he calls a disastrous mixture of unattached competitors
cooped up in a ship with nowhere to go.
In fact the possibility of a lovers' spat or an
all-out fistfight with a lover or over a lover somewhere between
Earth and Mars during a multibillion-dollar mission is a chilling
prospect. On the other hand, can human beings really be expected
to go without sex for nine months to three years in such close quarters
and under such difficult circumstances?
There are other problems associated wit the issue.
Contraception, for example. In a weightless environmen, the effective
and effectivemness will be a paramount. "Space may not be the best
lace to get pregnant," says Dr. Lynn Wiley, a reproductive biologist
at the Unicersity of California at Favis. Not only could it endanger
the mission, but the effects of radiation and weightlessness could
harm the fetus.
But what if the crew members do decide to have sex
during the mission? Aside from the psycological and sociological
issues, there are the problems of privacy. Then there is the question
of actually coupling in weightlessness. Newton's third law of motion
applies in a boudior in space as well as on Earth, except with more
interesting results. Lovemaking in zero gravity is likely to bring
a great many reactions, with couples catapulting off the walls,
and the floors, and careenining into the airlocks if their inty
cubicles during the heat of passion.
The accoutrements of old-fashioned romance will
also be difficult to come by. Flowers in space will be rare and
champagne is out of the question unless the couple is willing to
drink it from a straw and put it up with the momumental case of
zero-gravity-induced gas that would follow. Candlelight or cigarettes
aftervard? Not in space, not with all of those oxygen tanks around.
In general, it's a situation that could give new meaning to Shakespeare's
old phrase, "star-crosed lovers."