Space Sex??

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The most highly visible preoccupation of Americans today is sex! Media is filled with images, language, innuendoes, movies, songs, you name it, about our mating habits. Sex has become a national pastime.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (better known as NASA) has refused to think about sex in space. It's not that they are prudish; but they prefer to study technology and "hard science." To study sex in space would require the employment of "behavioral science" which is sometimes referred to as "soft science," that is, social and psychological science.

There are scientists that are asking, "And how about that mission to Mars? Are our astronauts going to remain celibate during the two and one-half years it takes to complete? Will married couples be going? Are we at least going to discuss the possibilities of sexual needs in space?" Or should we ignore the need for sexual behavior among our orbiting astronauts and cosmonauts? And of course, the NASA publicists are uneasy about discussing these issues with the public.

What We Need to Know

  1. What fields are considered "hard science?" Why is research divided up into two categories of "hard" and "soft" sciences?
  2. Why would NASA publicists be hesitant about discussing research on sex in space?
  3. Would you classify studies on sex as behavioral or physiological? Why?

Frank Sulzman of NASA's Life Sciences Division admits that sex is a difficult and sensitive area. Will sex in space get the attention it deserves, he wonders? While there have been studies dealing with human behavior in restricted environments, for example, the long-duration missions in the Antarctic or on nuclear submarines, NASA has historically shunned these types of studies. They worry that unquantifiables such as sex will take away from the engineering side of the spaceflight.

What We Need to Know

  1. Should human sexual behavior be studied as part of the space program? Defend your answer.
  2. What might be some physiological differences between sex on earth and sex in space that may cause concern? Should these issues be studied in your opinion? Defend your answer.
  3. Why is human sexual behavior considered an "unquantifiable" science?


Pretend that you are on a panel that grants money for research in space. Discuss in a well-researched paper why you would or would not fund studies on human sexual behavior on one of the space missions. Are these studies just as important as the ones on engineering and technology?

Create the first study of human sexual behavior in space. Be sure to include the research questions, hypotheses, experimental methods and materials, and research design. What will you actually measure in your study?


Gallagher, Barbara. 2000. Science and the Citizen. No space sex? Scientific American. January, p. 22.