A hot topic these days, and getting steamier as humans face long term habitation in space abord the International Space Station. Now that men and women are both fly in space, it's bound to happen sooner or later. For all we know, sex in space may have already have happened; a husband and wife team have flown together on a NASA space shuttle.

As Arthur C. Clarke wrote in one of the RAMA books, microgravity does interesting things to breasts.

Maybe NASA is already performing secrect experiments on shuttle flights, which positions work the best, and so on. Space porn anyone?

Funny that this node happened to pop up just now... I live very close to Cape Canaveral. Last week this topic was delved into on one of Orlando's top talk/entertainment radio stations. Several NASA employees called in, quite eager to give the listening public some interesting info. NASA has been studying human reproductive functions in zero gravity for quite a while. Some of their research has included studies of male erections and ejaculation, amongst other things.

How could NASA not study such definitive aspects of life funtions? After all, it takes 18 months for a space craft to travel from the Earth to Mars. We're talking a three year round trip, excluding the prime opportunity for flight windows. Seriously, who could possibly go that long without an orgasm?
According to unauthorized and unofficial studies done in NASA's neutral buoyancy tank, microgravitational copulation practices are rather similar to subaqueous practices of the same nature. Much of the research into this field has dealt with the observation of dolphins engaged in mating behavior, resulting in the following findings:

It requires three dolphins to successfully mate. This is because at the critical moment, groups of muscles in the body spontaneously contract and relax, causing the two to drift apart as they lose hold of each other. Thus, a third entity is required to maintain frictive contact with the fornicants, allowing a ideal connection.

Logical extrapolation would thus assume that we could mate in a microgravitational environment, assuming that:

  • You could find someone to hang on.
  • Alternatively, you could buy a whole lot of velcro and micropore tape.

This very topic was tackled in a short story by Paul Brians, "The Day They Tested the Rec Room," published in the Summer 1981 issue of CoEvolution Quarterly (later Whole Earth Review).

Forgive me the details, I read this years & years ago.
The story is set some time in the future when humans have been occupying a space station for longer and longer periods of time. Of course, since crews are mixed, including married couples, the question of sexual intercourse in zero gravity arises (so to speak). A room is designed and built on the space station (the "rec room" of the title). A heterosexual couple is selected to test it out, observed by a woman who monitors all sorts of equipment measuring physiological responses et cetera.

Warning: spoilers. Sorry.
To put it bluntly, heterosexual coupling is a disaster. Everyone had expected the orgasms would be fantastic in a zero gravity environment. The whole experience turned out to be painful and awkward (kind of like everyone's first time) for both parties, but particularly for the man. He ends up getting knocked unconscious, somehow.

When he comes to, hours have passed. He looks through the observation window to see the two women, slowly, langourously, making love to their mutual satisfaction (and his ego deflation).

The upshot is, the space station is thereafter staffed by entirely female crews, since only women could enjoy the rec room, and were therefore able to remain on the station for extended lengths of time.

Brians is currently a professor of English at Washington State University. He holds a Ph.D. from Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.

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