A bunch of highly trained scientists in China are, right hand to God, sending macaque monkeys and mice into space so they can study how they reproduce in space-like conditions.
“Some studies involving mice and macaques will be carried out to see how they grow or even reproduce in space,” a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Zhang Lu, said in a speech Monday. “These experiments will help improve our understanding of an organism’s adaptation to microgravity and other space environments.”
According to an article by the South China Morning Post, the study will take place aboard the Wentian Lab Module on the Chinese Space Station Tiangong. The space station is currently outfitted with small test cabinets intended for fish or snails but they will be reconfigured to house the monkeys, who were presumably still on Earth as of the publication of this article.
Anyone with a pulse is currently wondering the following: is it even possible to make monkeys have sex in space? Have humans had sex in space? If you have sex in space but give birth to the baby on Earth is the baby an earthling or an alien? Would that very same baby be barred from entering the United States under Trump’s immigration laws?
The history here is interesting, actually. Fruit flies were the first living creatures officially sent into space in 1947. Then the Soviets and the U.S. sent a bunch of animals including monkeys, mice, and dogs into orbit in the late 40s and 50s. I’ve seen some reports that mating may have occurred but the Soviets weren’t big on sharing notes so it’s hard to say.
In terms of the present day space monkeys, a Beijing college professor told the SCMP that their large size presents more issues, but studying larger animals is crucial for understanding if humans can create colonies on other planets.
“The astronauts will need to feed them and deal with the waste,” Professor Kehkooi Kee of Tsinghua University told the SCMP. “These experiments will be necessary.”
As far as humans go, NASA has clearly stated that as far as they know, no humans have ever had sex in space. No reports of space sex have ever been confirmed, though it is a surprisingly hotly-debated issue. An American astronaut couple married in secret before joining each other on a mission to the International Space Station in the 90s but the official story is basically that everyone is always too busy doing astronaut shit to think about screwing. I call shenanigans on that but I’ve also never been to space.
Our nation’s top scientists say the physics of space sex would be quite difficult as you’d need a third person, or a lot of velcro, to properly hold you in place. Not only that, the increased radiation levels in space and the effects of zero gravity on blood circulation present equally challenging issues for sexual and reproductive success.
According to a 2014 study: “Relative to other organ systems, the gonads are highly sensitive to radiation exposure. In men and women, temporary infertility is associated with high-dose, acute radiation exposure.”
Many scientists have also proposed that the way low gravity affects blood circulation might make it difficult for men to produce or maintain an erection. All this, coupled with the lack of privacy on a spacecraft has thus far made it very difficult for astronauts to, dare I say, experiment in this department.
Which brings us back to the Chinese launching monkeys into space. If the monkeys can successfully reproduce without any issues, or if we can at least develop an understanding of any issues that do occur, it may be key to understanding if humans can maintain future colonies in space or on other planets.