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A lack of gravity could prevent interstellar travelers from reproducing, which is vital to successfully making it to their destination 4 light-years away

Traveling to another star introduces a list of potential problems. One major issue is that the closest star is 4 light-years away, where one light-year is equal to 6 trillion miles. Such a journey could take decades to centuries to complete, meaning the humans aboard would have to procreate, but experts say space sex is just another bullet point on the list of possible hindrances associated with the voyage to the stars.

The problem with space sex is the lack of gravity, according to Athena Andreadis, biologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

"Sex is very difficult in zero gravity, apparently, because you have no traction and you keep bumping against the walls," said Andreadis. "Think about it: You have no friction, you have no resistance."

After sex, there's the birthing process to think about. According to Andreadis, giving birth in zero gravity would be "hell" because gravity and the weight of the baby help the process along.

Microgravity has been known to have negative effects on the human body over time, such as impaired vision, atrophying muscles, reduced blood volume and diminished bone mineral. If microgravity can have such effects on the human body, it could likely harm a fetus or cause birth defects.

Dan Buckland, an MIT researcher who spoke on the topic of space sex and traveling to the stars at the 100-Year Starship Symposium, said that it is currently unknown what gravity has to do with successful reproduction and birth in space, but large starships with the ability to simulate gravity onboard that is also self-sustainable for such a long journey would be required.

While we are far from even that sort of technological development, there is yet another challenge even further ahead in the future if humans were to travel to a star: finding a habitable planet to settle.

Experts say other habitable planets will unlikely mimic Earth, hence, the human settlers would need to live in a dome with an Earth-like biosphere or terraforming the planet as a whole, which is terribly difficult. Terraforming is the process of modifying a planet's atmosphere, temperature, ecology or surface topography in order to make it more similar to Earth.

"Not only are we bad at terraforming, but we don't have the life span or the attention span to carry it through," said Andreadis. "Terraforming is a failure of the imagination. It's like people who take those expensive trips to Paris and eat at McDonald's."

Andreadis even mentioned genetically engineering humans to make it so they can journey to a star and live on another planet without complications, but this raises ethical issues of creating an entirely different second species of human.


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Centripetal Force?
By ElementZero on 10/3/2011 11:28:04 AM , Rating: 5
I'm sure this has been thought about, but why not just make a spaceship that has the compartments (or at least one compartment) that would spin around and cause centripetal force? Is there some sort of technological limitation we have that we couldn't just do this?

RE: Centripetal Force?
By Apone on 10/3/2011 11:56:46 AM , Rating: 5
- Agreed, another reason for simulating artificial gravity is that pulling out in zero gravity would probably require a comprehensive cleanup.

RE: Centripetal Force?
By theapparition on 10/3/2011 12:04:09 PM , Rating: 2
This has been the solution in science fiction for decades, and it will work fine in real life.

It does consume resources, and costs extra mass and dimensional space. So alternatives are always investigated.

RE: Centripetal Force?
By MozeeToby on 10/3/2011 12:12:44 PM , Rating: 2
There is no realistic alternative though, I'd be shocked if we can send people successfully to the surface of mars let alone the stars without a rotating habitat. Does anyone remember the images of the Russians carrying the Mir cosmonauts out of the return capsules? Now imagine them landing on Mars after a year long trip with no support staff and dozens of things that need to be done just to ensure survival.

I say when we do the first Mars mission we spin them up to half a G, with a few outriggers up to a full G so that we can run a few experiments on rodents during the trip and figure out what is actually necessary for successful reproduction.

RE: Centripetal Force?
By Steve1981 on 10/3/2011 2:33:08 PM , Rating: 2
There is no realistic alternative though

What about harnessing the power of magnetism combined with specialized space suits? Not a perfect solution, but I wonder if it could help with the effects of high acceleration rates as well.

RE: Centripetal Force?
By Reclaimer77 on 10/3/2011 2:39:37 PM , Rating: 2
That would help you get around, sure. But it wouldn't be gravity or even simulated gravity. You would just be floating around inside a magnetized suit, essentially. Your white blood cells and muscles would still experience the same effects of zero gravity.

RE: Centripetal Force?
By Steve1981 on 10/3/2011 3:04:12 PM , Rating: 3
Nothing that can't be cured by a high iron diet!


RE: Centripetal Force?
By JediJeb on 10/4/2011 2:47:25 PM , Rating: 2
but I wonder if it could help with the effects of high acceleration rates as well.

Hydrolic acceleration couches would work better. This is where the body is suspended in liquid during high G acceleration, it helps to distribute the load more evenly on the body. At least that is one theory.

RE: Centripetal Force?
By theapparition on 10/3/2011 4:30:33 PM , Rating: 2
Not quite true.

You could always accelerate at 1G towards your target, and midway turn around and decelerate 1G.

Of course this requires that said craft would be capable of the energy required to constantly accelerate.

Just an example of some of the ideas I've heard. So there are other alternatives. As to whether they are practical is another matter.

RE: Centripetal Force?
By EricMartello on 10/3/2011 12:13:04 PM , Rating: 2
Or we could just design the ship to be shaped like tube so that the entire vessel could rotate to simulate gravity. In the center could be stationary sections that hold comm equipment, scanners and such.

RE: Centripetal Force?
By MozeeToby on 10/3/2011 12:29:24 PM , Rating: 3
The problem with that is the sizes involved. Coriolis forces are expected to cause severe motion sickness in most people if the craft spins at more than 2RPMs. To get a full G your tube needs to have a radius of 224 meters. You could screen your crew for people resistant the effects that would weed out a lot of otherwise qualified people and still require a larger than practical craft.

Easier would be to have a habitat on one end of a tether and a counter weight on the other that contains everything else. The 'tether' could be relatively thick, even thick enough to allow crew access to the counterweight if need be, but doesn't require a full loop which is pretty expensive weight wise.

RE: Centripetal Force?
By BurnItDwn on 10/3/2011 1:57:10 PM , Rating: 2
224m for 1G, yes, but artificial gravity does not need to match that of earth. If people are going on a "1 way trip", then at most, they would need the artificial g's to be similar to that of the destination. And even then, the main benefit of having that much G is so that the crew can stay in decent physical shape....

Even 0.25g should be plenty for the trip assuming the crew lift weights to avoid losing too much muscle mass

Also, anything going on a decades or centuries long journey is going to be colossally giant, and probably won't be practical until something like a space elevator is built....

RE: Centripetal Force?
By Stuka on 10/3/2011 3:12:09 PM , Rating: 2
I would suggest a BowFlex instead of a weight set. At 1/4 the gravity you would need a lot of extra weights. ;)

RE: Centripetal Force?
By EricMartello on 10/4/2011 3:32:10 PM , Rating: 2
I think the people who embark in that voyage will be the type who can adjust to a little motion sickness...also, expected to cause doesn't mean will cause. They should test it on a smaller scale before writing it off as impractical.

RE: Centripetal Force?
By Jaybus on 10/3/2011 2:16:23 PM , Rating: 3
Really? Who says it will work? We don't know how this affects things at the molecular level. There is clearly loss of blood cells, etc. when in microgravity, and we do not know whether spinning a large craft would alleviate these problems or not. It is NOT the same as gravity.

RE: Centripetal Force?
By lyeoh on 10/3/2011 2:56:37 PM , Rating: 2
Based on current theory it's the same.

Anyway it sure makes for a better experiment and project than wasting lots of money and resources trying to send people to Mars or resend them to the Moon.

Succeed in this first and sending people to Mars might become unimportant or even irrelevant. Once you can build sustainable space colonies, you can move them to near the asteroid belt for easier access to resources.

RE: Centripetal Force?
By jihadjoe on 10/6/2011 9:34:49 AM , Rating: 2
Or for no additional cost we can have teh space ship do barrel rolls all the way to alpha centauri.

RE: Centripetal Force?
By AmbroseAthan on 10/3/2011 12:10:17 PM , Rating: 3
I agree that would work, but I am confused why sex itself is suddenly so much more difficult.

Without gravity, a lot of positions suddenly become a lot easier as you don't need to worry about weight and msucle fatigue from holding various positions. With a couple handholds in a room or places to lock your feet into position depending what you want to do, the possibilities of positions are almost boundless.

Even barring handholds with just some free floating fun, losing the issue of weight and just holding onto your partner makes things very interesting.

RE: Centripetal Force?
By EricMartello on 10/3/11, Rating: 0
RE: Centripetal Force?
By AmbroseAthan on 10/3/2011 12:25:22 PM , Rating: 2
I am probably as far from virginity as most people will get. Google "AFF ambroseathan" if you feel like learning more.

RE: Centripetal Force?
By MrBlastman on 10/3/2011 1:55:40 PM , Rating: 2
Come on, try harder than than. My mom's number is on Google. That doesn't automatically make her a whore. This is Dailytech--we expect more in a flamewar than that sad rebuttal.

RE: Centripetal Force?
By DoctorBeer on 10/3/2011 10:15:00 PM , Rating: 3
So that's what she tells you.

RE: Centripetal Force?
By MrBlastman on 10/3/2011 10:43:26 PM , Rating: 2
Come to think of it...

RE: Centripetal Force?
By MozeeToby on 10/3/2011 12:16:01 PM , Rating: 3
I think the potential for injury is higher than you're probably imagining. Strapping your feet in might sound like a good idea, but if your body starts twisting you have all the inertia of your full weight and very few points of contact to stop the motion. I imagine it would be very easy to injure a knee or ankle that kind of situation, not to mention more... *ahem*... delicate bits of anatomy.

On the other hand, spin up the space station to a quarter G and I would imagine you could have a very nice time.

RE: Centripetal Force?
By eldakka on 10/3/2011 8:02:57 PM , Rating: 2
You'd have the inertia of your full MASS, not weight.

If you WEIGH 160lbs on earth, your mass (in kilograms) is (160lbs/2.2)/9.81=72.7kg/9.81=7.41kg.

Therefore while doing the dirty in space you'd have to be able to counteract inertia created by moving 7.41kg of mass (plus that of your partner depending on position), not your 72.7kg of WEIGHT on earth.

RE: Centripetal Force?
By Laitainion on 10/4/2011 1:41:49 AM , Rating: 2
Kg are mass. Weight is measured in Newtons, which is Kg * local gravity (on Earth 9.81 blah blah blah).

RE: Centripetal Force?
By JediJeb on 10/4/2011 2:53:54 PM , Rating: 2
Your mass remains the same whether you are on earth or in space. Weight depends on gravity, mass is constant(for this situation at least).

RE: Centripetal Force?
By rudy on 10/3/2011 1:22:11 PM , Rating: 2
I think this is just bad reporting or science. Lets see in western society people have sex from every possible combinations of positions with and against gravity. In our hospitals the vast majority of people give birth while laying down in a gravity neutral position. There are arguements for standing or squatting of course to help. But so far I am pretty sure millions and millions of babies have been born without a problem.

RE: Centripetal Force?
By rudy on 10/3/2011 1:25:50 PM , Rating: 2
Oh and there is no mention of how much better being pregnant might be for woman whom do not need to deal with the added weight of the baby.

RE: Centripetal Force?
By 91TTZ on 10/3/2011 2:00:30 PM , Rating: 2
Without gravity, a lot of positions suddenly become a lot easier as you don't need to worry about weight and msucle fatigue from holding various positions. With a couple handholds in a room or places to lock your feet into position depending what you want to do, the possibilities of positions are almost boundless.

You'd have to rewrite the Kama Sutra! Imagine the possibilities. No longer constrained by the simple missionary position, you could now have some sort of crazy zero-G rotating triple-lindy inverted... oh man the possibilities are endless.

RE: Centripetal Force?
By Reclaimer77 on 10/3/2011 2:05:00 PM , Rating: 1
What's the point? You would still only last 5 seconds anyway!



RE: Centripetal Force?
By eldakka on 10/3/2011 8:04:29 PM , Rating: 3


RE: Centripetal Force?
By Motoman on 10/3/2011 1:12:47 PM , Rating: 3
Look at the human spaceships from Babylon 5 as an example. They all had rotation sections to simulate gravity. The B5 spacestation itself all rotated, so the whole station was completely habitable.

RE: Centripetal Force?
By Reclaimer77 on 10/4/11, Rating: 0
RE: Centripetal Force?
By 91TTZ on 10/3/2011 1:54:35 PM , Rating: 2
You're thinking of centrifugal force. Centripetal force would be exerted by the structural members of the space station that prevent it from flying apart.

RE: Centripetal Force?
By FaceMaster on 10/7/2011 3:03:12 PM , Rating: 2
You spin me right round baby...

Time to invest in RnD
By MrTeal on 10/3/2011 11:32:18 AM , Rating: 4
Sounds like a problem that could be whipped with some RnD and a lot of practice, to me.

I need to apply for some research dollars on this one.

RE: Time to invest in RnD
By luv2liv on 10/3/2011 11:35:58 AM , Rating: 2
i thought the Soviets solved this problem with rubber bands.

RE: Time to invest in RnD
By MrBlastman on 10/3/2011 11:45:34 AM , Rating: 5
It's nothing that a good docking collar could solve to better facilitate the boarding process. A little thrust goes a long way in space. My only worry is premature airlock expulsion but that too could be solved through proper pacing. This whole experiment could give us a new reason to explore the peaks of Venus!

RE: Time to invest in RnD
By FITCamaro on 10/3/2011 11:51:12 AM , Rating: 1

RE: Time to invest in RnD
By blueaurora on 10/3/2011 8:19:33 PM , Rating: 2
Win x2. You sir Own3d- :)

RE: Time to invest in RnD
By bh192012 on 10/3/2011 7:47:25 PM , Rating: 2
""Sex is very difficult in zero gravity, apparently, because you have no traction and you keep bumping against the walls," said Andreadis. "Think about it: You have no friction, you have no resistance.""

Trust me, when I try this experiment, with a slippery bathtub, my wife gives me plenty of resistance, but once you give up on making it graceful it works just fine. Besides, in space you'll probably be in a mounted sack anyways, so you're not going to bounce away.

What a funny news !
By kensiko on 10/3/2011 11:48:12 AM , Rating: 3
I guess you have some holes in the news feed. Anyway, it was funny.

Wrong perception
By Booster on 10/3/2011 12:29:15 PM , Rating: 1
Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that people will ever be able to travel to even the closest star let alone find a habitable planet which probably is like at the other side of the galaxy or in the very least not 'nearby'.

The thing is that aliens visiting Earth don't seem to be doing it in their physical form. It might be pretty safe to assume that no sentient species can travel such great distances but they may be able to teleport drones or projections which are perceived as UFOs. It might be possible to 'take a peek', but not go there per say.

RE: Wrong perception
By Jaybus on 10/3/2011 3:06:11 PM , Rating: 2
Even using entangled particles, it is not possible to transmit information faster than light by any of the interpretations of quantum mechanics. The "take a peek" approach would then also be limited by the speed of light. Since our galaxy is 100,000 light years in diameter, it seems quite unlikely anyone is taking a remote peak at us.

What about fertilization?
By tlbj6142 on 10/3/2011 11:30:13 AM , Rating: 2
I'm sure two people with the drive could make the sex happen, but I suspect the fertilization process depends on a gravity a bit as well.


By quiksilvr on 10/3/2011 11:52:05 AM , Rating: 2
Develop a synthetic uterus that can be used to grow the baby outside of the female. They are already pushing this technology in order to grow babies in labs using eggs and sperm without the need for sexualsmplosionsnmypants.

The solution is possible...
By greylica on 10/3/2011 12:27:00 PM , Rating: 2
Using Bondage, and sadomasoquism is another optional playground...


simple solution
By Chernobyl68 on 10/3/2011 1:22:25 PM , Rating: 2
constant acceleration craft? Journeying to another planet in Einstein space would require some serious speed. Larry Niven's "Known Universe" used magnetic ramscoops to gather up interstellar hydrogen to power a fusion engine.

By Bad-Karma on 10/3/2011 1:25:52 PM , Rating: 2
To hell with this theoretical conclusion, real scientist seek actual data before something is disproved or validated. This is something that I feel would take multiple studies over many years to determine.

I nominate myself to this scientific endeavor!

scientific proof
By inperfectdarkness on 10/3/2011 4:10:10 PM , Rating: 2
until this theory is actually tested in zero-gravity, there will not be any concrete proof either way.

i'd like to volunteer myself to be the first brave test-subject to research this problem for the benefit of mankind. all i ask is for my fellow test subjects to include jessica alba & scarlett johansson.

again, this is for the benefit of all mankind, so i cannot stress how important this research is.

Pre-fertilized eggs.
By BigEdMan on 10/3/2011 5:32:31 PM , Rating: 2
Depending on the mission the actual importance of being able to conceive a pregnancy becomes moot. For maintaining a small crew you would be better served by using frozen pre-fertilized eggs. For a full-blown colonizing mission we would need to catalog and store millions of pre-fertilized eggs. After arrival you would have to start mixing in the stored material based on computer models to achieve maximum biodiversity.

By mindless1 on 10/4/2011 1:51:30 AM , Rating: 2
If you can push your willie in and out of your space suit zipper, you have succeeded in the basic motion required for sexual stimulation. Traction and friction against room objects is not needed.

Gravity is NOT a factor in childbirth, the mother's muscle squeeze the baby out, it doen't just fall out if a woman is standing upright and for that matter we don't generally have children standing upright these days. On the contrary, some women opt to give birth in water.

The only real issues are the development of the fetus and child in the low to no gravity state, whether it would ever be able to leave space and exist on a planet with gravity unless it had been subjected to comprehensive stresses designed to make muscle and bone tolerant... and yet, we could say the same about earthlings in general, just because we "might" someday find an inhabitable planet, that doesn't necessarily mean that after floating there in space we would magically have adapted to whatever the change in gravity might be.

How to make the trip
By Senju on 10/5/2011 12:16:21 AM , Rating: 2
The best solution is as follows;
1.) Upload your mind In digital format to the digital mind controller located on the spaceship.

2.) After the spaceship gets near the destination which could take several million years, 20 years prior to arrival, the ship central computer will dispatch the robots to create a new bio-human body (made from samples of your DNS) which will grow for 20 years.

3.) Once the body is developed,your mind is downloaded into the new body. Your new body is specifically designed for the new home planet environment.

From human perspective, it would be like time never passed.
Also, you would have a body that would fit with the new environment.

By dani31 on 10/3/11, Rating: -1
"Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town." -- Charlie Miller

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