An Indian Civilizational Perspective

Can Astronauts have Sex in Space?

Ok, I am not talking of that lady who drove from Houston to Florida in diapers.. but it is a serious issue given the future plans…

Now, that NASA is deciding to go send humans to Mars.. and then recently we found this planet which is earth like.. there might be multi-year journeys.. with both men and women flying together.. so there would be some interesting questions coming up – like if someone does die.. or is close to death.. when do you pull the plug? Or can these men and women who are together for so long engage in sex? These are all part of an ethics debate going on now.. hmm interesting!

How do you get rid of the body of a dead astronaut on a three-year mission to Mars and back?

When should the plug be pulled on a critically ill astronaut who is using up precious oxygen and endangering the rest of the crew? Should NASA employ DNA testing to weed out astronauts who might get a disease on a long flight?

With NASA planning to land on Mars 30 years from now, and with the recent discovery of the most "Earth-like" planet ever seen outside the solar system, the space agency has begun to ponder some of the thorny practical and ethical questions posed by deep space exploration.

Some of these who-gets-thrown-from-the-lifeboat questions are outlined in a NASA document on crew health obtained by The Associated Press through a Freedom of Information Act request.

NASA doctors and scientists, with help from outside bioethicists and medical experts, hope to answer many of these questions over the next several years.

"As you can imagine, it’s a thing that people aren’t really comfortable talking about," said Dr. Richard Williams, NASA’s chief health and medical officer. "We’re trying to develop the ethical framework to equip commanders and mission managers to make some of those difficult decisions should they arrive in the future."

One topic that is evidently too hot to handle: How do you cope with sexual desire among healthy young men and women during a mission years long?

Sex is not mentioned in the document and has long been almost a taboo topic at NASA. Williams said the question of sex in space is not a matter of crew health but a behavioral issue that will have to be taken up by others at NASA.

The agency will have to address the matter sooner or later, said Paul Root Wolpe, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania who has advised NASA since 2001.

"There is a decision that is going to have to be made about mixed-sex crews, and there is going to be a lot of debate about it," he said.

The document does spell out some health policies in detail, such as how much radiation astronauts can be exposed to from space travel (No more radiation than the amount that would increase the risk of cancer by 3 percent over the astronaut’s career) and the number of hours crew members should work each week (No more than 48 hours).

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