Warning Issued On Children Being Conceived In Space Amid Space Tourism

Juan Umbarila
Experts warn of a need to acknowledge and regulate the possibility of uncontrolled human conception in emerging space tourism.
SpaceX Falcon Heavy Demo Mission
SpaceX Falcon Heavy Demo Mission. Photo: SpaceX | Unsplash

As space tourism is expected to grow rapidly in the next ten years, there is an equally rising need for conversations and regulations on the multiple issues this nascent activity will bring to society. One of them, not usually discussed, is space sex and the possibility of beyond-orbit human conception, with its respective biological and societal implications.

This is the topic of a recent green paper, a type of research document published by the European Commission that may lead to legislative developments, that aims to start a conversation on a subject that presently seems futuristic, but will become necessary in the near future.

According to the authors, from different nationalities, universities, and research institutions across the globe: “It is unrealistic to assume all space tourism participants will abstain from sexual activities while exposed to microgravity and increased levels of ionizing radiation during spaceflight.”

There are biological and societal dangers that need to be researched and acknowledged. The conversation needs to be open and should include all actors and stakeholders from a nascent industry that may go mainstream in the not-so-distant future.

Why Is It Important To Think About Space Tourism Sex?

8-cell human Embryo – 3 days. It is unknown how space conditions can affect early human development. Photo: Ekem | Wikimedia Commons

There are no documented cases of human conceptions in space. In fact, there are no documented cases of human sexual intercourse in space, as DW reported. But this may be about to change as space tourism grows and the motivations of tourists will involve leisure, risk-taking, and discovery, rather than the professional research of traditional astronauts.

Firstly, there are serious biological implications that may result from human conception in space. The early stages of human reproduction: gametogenesis, fertilization, and implantation in the uterus may be affected by zero gravity environments and ionizing radiation, and long-term developments may consequently arise.

The authors warn that there is little understanding of how these conditions may affect human reproduction and early development, but the limited research available on mammalian space reproduction (mostly on mice) points to significant “effects on several steps of reproduction physiology.”

Sexuality is an integral component of human nature, and there is no reason to think this is less important in space than on Earth. As the demographics of humans in space vary from professional astronauts to private ones, and the motivations change from research to leisure, the possibility of sex in space, and conception, becomes greater.

This as the industry grows and space honeymoons and trips for romantic purposes become more possible, and as the touristic infrastructure on ships is designed for more comfort and privacy. Researchers even warn that the adult film industry may become part of this tourism segment, given its considerable resources.

Space Tourism Is Expected To Grow Fast

SpaceX’s Starbase in Texas. Photo: Steve Jurvelson | Wikimedia Commons

Space tourism first became a reality in the 21st c. From 2001 to 2009, Russian spacecraft flew seven private astronauts (or cosmonauts) to the International Space Station (ISS).

More recently, private companies and startups have identified the business opportunity of wealthy passengers willing to pay astronomical fees for space tourism experiences. In 2021 SpaceX flew 4 private astronauts for three days. In 2022, Axiom Space brought another 4 private astronauts on a 17-day stay on the ISS.

And more projects are coming, including concepts of space hotels, such as the one partnering Voyager Space with the Hilton Hotel group.

The estimated market size of space tourism will range between $8.7 and $92 billion by 2030, according to different market reports reviewed in the research paper.

That is why the paper’s authors recommend consultation and meetings of actors and stakeholders, basically an open societal conversation, that should lead to the formulation of regulation, risk mitigation, and development of best practices.


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