Whether or not humans have ever had sex in space remains an open debate on the internet. NASA, however, is more interested in the hypothetical question of whether or not humans can conceive in space.
To find out, NASA shipped vials of frozen bull and human sperm samples to the International Space Station. The Micro-11 experiment’s supplies were delivered by SpaceX’s Dragon capsule a couple weeks ago.
After thawing the samples, astronauts aboard the International Space Station will activate the sperm using a unique chemical concoction. Video will be used to record the movements of the sperm as it prepares to find and fuse with an egg.
After the observations, astronauts will add preservatives to the sperm samples and send them back to Earth with other completed experiments.
“Based on previous experiments, it seems the lack of gravity facilitates sperm mobility,” Fathi Karouia, lead scientist for NASA’s Micro-11 project, told reporters. “This is in line with other investigations on different model organisms which have shown that microgravity conditions trigger faster cell regeneration.”
One previous experiment proved mouse sperm can survive nine months in space. The sperm was used to successfully impregnate mice back on Earth.
The Micro-11 project will be the first to assess the fertility of human and bovine sperm in space, however.
“We don’t know yet how long-duration spaceflight affects human reproductive health, and this investigation would be the first step in understanding the potential viability of reproduction in reduced-gravity conditions,” NASA wrote in a recent update.
As to the question of whether or not humans have attempted copulation in space, most experts believe the answer is no. NASA has firmly stated that its astronauts have never had sex in space. The only evidence to the contrary is conjecture.