Can Humans Conceive In Space? NASA Sent Sperm To The ISS To Find Out

What happens
if humans bone in space? Don’t lie; the question has crossed your mind before.
Now, NASA scientists are getting one step closer to answering it. Specifically:
they want to understand the behavior of sperm in space. Last week, alongside
5,800 pounds of supplies and experiments, NASA sent a couple of sperm samples
to the ISS aboard a Falcon 9 rocket.

It might
seem a silly use of resources, but NASA is trying to answer a question that has
been plaguing us ever since we realized that humans would be eventually living
in space (or at least going on extended space vacations): Can we reproduce in

As luxury
space hotels and long-term Mars missions become a reality, so too will people
who make babies (or at least try to) in space. So it’s good to start looking
into how that might work out before it happens.

In Mission
Micro-11, as it’s been called, astronauts on board the ISS will test if samples
of human and bull semen (acting as quality control) can move freely enough and
fast enough to fuse with an egg inside the station’s Microgravity Science
Glovebox. The ISS astronauts will also record video of the experiments and send
the footage back to Earth to be analyzed.

(Yes, there
are six full-grown men on board the ISS right now, but NASA didn’t ask them to
contribute in another way, “it’s understandable why the space agency didn’t go
that route, if for no other reason than the limits of what can be reasonably
demanded in even an outer space workplace,” as Live Science notes.)

experiments are important because there’s evidence from earlier experiments
that the lack of gravity might throw off how sperm function here on Earth.
While sperm themselves might be able to move more freely in microgravity, the
bigger challenge might be getting the sperm to fuse with the egg. “Delays or
problems at this stage could prevent fertilization from happening in space,”
according to NASA’s web site.

It’s not the
first time we’ve studied sperm in space.

In 2017,
NASA found that frozen mouse sperm survived a 9 month trip to the ISS, and was
able to produce healthy mice back on Earth. Scientists also showed that aquatic
invertebrates were able to successfully reproduce in space back in 1998: snails
and water fleas were able to continue life-cycles within a water-filled tank
during a four-month trip aboard the Mir Space Station.

Even once we
understand how sperm operate in space, there will still be questions. What
about the intricacies of having sex in space? Can humans survive giving birth
in microgravity? How will we overcome the massive amount of radiation levels?
Will the lack of gravity affect children’s early development?

Science has
laid the foundation, and NASA is finally going to find out if we will stand a
chance as long-term travelers in outer space. But let’s take it slow.