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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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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.

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