Can Infertility Affect Our Future In Space?

March 29th, 2011
Can Infertility Affect Our Future In Space?

It appears so, if Stephen Hawking, the well known astrophysicist is correct. He told reporters: “It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster in the next 100 years, let alone the next thousand or million. Our only chance of long-term survival is not to remain inward-looking on planet Earth, but to spread out into space.”

The comments were made in reference to Hawking’s belief that if the human race is to survive it will have to start colonising space within the next hundred years.

Although this pessimistic view of humanity has been dismissed by many, it does raise the question about what we need to do and should not do if we do decide to leave this planet.

The major problem scientists perceive, is whether it is feasible to procreate while onboard a space ship. The general suggestion is that it is not feasible. The reason: radiation – it has a devastating effect on fertility. DNA, according to scientists currently looking into colonising Mars will be severely affected if colonisers decide to have sex on the trip.

Scientists feel that without some sort of protective shield around the space ship, high energy protons would sterilise any female foetus, while males would be affected if not completely made infertile.

Tore Straume of NASA’s Ames Research Centre wrote in an article for the Journal of Cosmology: “The present shielding capabilities would probably preclude having a pregnancy transited to Mars.”

She added: “One would have to be very protective of those cells during gestation, during pregnancy, to make sure that the female didn’t become sterile so they could continue the colony.”

Earth’s atmosphere absorbs most radiation coming from space, although human beings are not completely immune to the effects of the sun’s rays; increased skin cancer rates are testament to this.

Until recently, sex is not something NASA wanted to discuss. But with the possibility, some say necessary need to think about colonisation of other planets, the organisation is now actively carrying out research.

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