Last June, after the number of women on board the International
Space Station doubled to four, NASA commander Alex Poindexter issued a formal policy
: Space sex will not be tolerated. "We are a group of professionals," he said
at the time. "Personal relationships are not...an issue...we don't have
them and we won't." But even if the astronauts did violate Poindexter's
decree, there appears to be little chance that any relations would have
resulted in an errant pregnancy.
Space appears to provide its own sort of contraception in the form of
sterilizing proton particles that pass through ineffective shuttle
shielding, reports Andy Bloxham
at The Telegraph. The findings arrive courtesy of scientists at NASA's
Ames Research Center, who found that these particles "would probably
sterilise any female embryo conceived in deep space" and also reduce the
sperm count in men.
As Bloxham notes, "given
that travel to distant planets is likely to take decades, centuries or
longer, this could make any mission to colonise other environments a
non-starter." Meaning, for instance, that a potential death mission to Mars
would have little chance of spawning a colony without better shielding technology.
Of course, this hasn't deterred those who continue to plan a Martian foray. Russians cooped up for over half a year as part of a faux-Mars mission to test psychological endurance for a real mission have just now completed their fake Mars walk
. Is this useful? Or merely the most expensive piece of performance art to date?
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