One Giant Leap: The Future of Sex in Space

by Christopher J.

February 29, 2024

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When it comes to space exploration, humans have done pretty well for themselves. Considering the major obstacles that space travel presents, we have found innovative & ingenious ways to overcome them so we can – at least temporarily – live outside of the confines of Earth & her atmosphere. We have a long way to go, though. There’s one major area of the future of space exploration that has long gone ignored. What about sex?

For the time being, if you want to see sex in space, you’re still going to have to look to Hollywood. They’ve been imagining and imaging cosmic coitus in films and television for several decades now. Made in 1968, Barbarella for example, features a young Jane Fonda giving new meaning to out-of-this-world sex in perhaps our earliest introduction to cinematic celestial schtupping.

A decade later, Roger Moore took sex to a higher level, too, when 007 ended up on a mission to save the space station. At one harrowing moment, a live feed of his surreptitious space-bound boinking was relayed to the White House in the 1979 Bond thriller Moonraker. Oops!

More recently, the pilot episode of the Amazon series “The Exposure” presented a fictional depiction of what zero-gravity sex might look like when lead actor Steven Strait’s character (James Holden) engaged in suspended sex with an adventurous woman as they rock and roll in midair.

It’s been more than 50 years since we first landed on the moon, but humans in space haven’t even gotten to first base yet. The reasons are fairly obvious. Although you’d think soaring through the stars would make for an ideal place for love making, being cramped into a tightly packed capsule, wearing an uncomfortably baggy suit that makes you perspire profusely and bulky headgear or helmets just so you can breathe is sort of the anti-horny setting for sex.

“In the space shuttle program, where we had males and females, I can tell you that nobody was doing that because there’s absolutely no privacy,” attested retired Air Force Colonel Mike Mullane in a 2014 Men’s Health article; Mullane completed three space missions aboard the shuttles Discovery and Atlantis before retiring in 1990. “The only privacy would have been in the air lock, but everybody would know what you were doing. You’re not out there doing a spacewalk. There’s no reason to be in there.”

In fact, our illustrious and extremely accomplished space agency, NASA, has served as a metaphorical chastity belt on the topic of bodies in space exploring each other.

“NASA… would rather not talk about sex,” said Sandra Jones, a NASA Johnson Space Center spokeswoman in a Mashable article last year. “That has been its modus operandi for the past 60 years of sending humans into space. No one to its knowledge has ever joined the hundreds-of-miles-high club, according to NASA, though contrary to belief, the agency has no formal policy regarding sexual activity in space. We depend and rely on the professional and good judgment of our astronauts.”

Fortunately, despite NASA’s reluctance to talk dirty about space sex, Mullane, in his memoir Riding Rockets: The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut, provided a tantalizing clue to what the future might hold for intergalactic intercourse when he revealed what occurred when he awoke on his first morning aboard the space shuttle Discovery: “I had an erection so intense it was painful. I could have drilled through kryptonite.”

Uh, Houston, we have a hard-on.

“Scientists once questioned whether erections would be possible in space because blood and fluids shift and redistribute through the body without gravity,” writer Elisha Sauers explains in her Mashable article. “Hormones that increase one’s sex drive also plummet. But a few male astronauts have opened up about the changes they have observed in their own anatomy. Not only is it possible to get aroused in space, but sometimes the environment has a turboing effect, giving rise to a nickname for the experience: space Viagra.”

So the future calls. Recent revived plans to pursue expeditions to Mars, with some new stops at the moon – all accelerated by the private space race between Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos to pioneer the space tourism industry – have upped the anti for figuring out how to do the deed in other worldly ways.

“Now some researchers are arguing that we need to make the study of extraterrestrial intimacy and sexuality, also known as ‘space sexology’ or ‘astrosexology,’ a priority,” says Kate Hull in a July 2023 Business Insider health article about why we need to know how to have sex in space.

The article cites a study published that month in the journal Current Sexual Health Reports. The two authors, Simon Dubé, a researcher at the Kinsey Institute, and Maria Santaguida, a PhD candidate at Concordia University, “examined all the research on sexuality in space in the last five years, and concluded that space sexuality urgently needs more attention and research.” 

In the article, Dubé said: “There is a harmful misconception that research in space sexology is not urgent or important. At the moment, space organizations are seemingly waiting for problems to arise, rather than proactively ensuring we have the necessary knowledge to allow the safe, full expression of human eroticism in space. This must change now.”

Whatever environments humans find themselves inhabiting, sex is a basic human function must be taken into consideration if humans are to become “a multi-planetary species fully independent from earth,” said Santaguida.

Aspects of space, like radiation, changes in gravity, and the stress of living in an isolated, confined and extreme setting with a limited number of people for an extended period of time could make sex — and reproduction — very challenging for people, according to the researchers. All these issues, Dubé argues, need to be addressed for us to live among the stars.

If you remain skeptical about whether or not astronauts have had sex in space, Leroy Chiao put those doubts to rest in the Men’s Health article; the seasoned spaceman flew on three shuttle flights and commanded Expedition 10, where he lived aboard the International Space Station from 2004-05.

“The reason I’m so sure it’s never happened is because guys are guys everywhere,” he said. “And if someone had actually done it, that guy would not be able to keep his mouth shut and we would all know.”

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