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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Ultimate Space Odyssey: Who Has Made "Happy-Happy" In Space?

"So where do I purchase my ticket?
I'd just like to have a ringside seat
I want to know about the new Mother Earth
I want to hear and see everything
I want to hear and see everything

From "Up From the Skies" by Jimi Hendrix

We recently discovered American astronaut Sally Ride had been in a loving relationship with another woman for 27 years, so my deviant mind began to wonder about space and nature and "rides" in space. With all respect for you, Sally, I often smiled when I considered your given moniker and your profession. "Ride, Sally, Ride -- Gonna have to put your flat feet on the ground."

"Mustang" Sally Ride

Sorry if this seems inappropriate, but how can you not question who has had sex in space? Such an achievement surely is noteworthy and conducive to romantic fantasies. Men-women-space-love.

A fairly well-known French science, space and astronomy writer called Pierre Kohler claimed in a book (about Document 12-571-3570 - November, 1989) that both US and Russian astronauts had enjoyed "cosmic couplings" during separate doubtless important research programs into how humans might survive several years in orbit.

According to Kohler, he had gained access to a confidential Nasa report about a space shuttle mission in 1996 during which a project codenamed STS-XX was to explore precisely which sexual positions were possible in a weightless atmosphere. The report concluded that only four positions were in fact possible in space without "mechanical assistance" (the missionary position was not one of them). It added, tantalisingly, that a videotape, albeit censored, existed of the experiment.

As soon as Kohler made the claims, NASA rebutted them and denied the existence of any such zero-gravity sex project. The whole thing was a hoax -- "a fairly well-known urban legend -- a spokesman said, based on a fake document that had been circulating on the internet for many years.

A Little History

The first mission that included both men and women launched in 1982. Evidently, Cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya's had a reputation for toughness, not to mention the fact she was married. No one believes Svetlana did any sensual sweating during the mission.

Svetlana Savitskaya

The first married couple went to space in 1991, when training-camp sweethearts Jan Davis and Mark Lee served together on a mission. NASA normally has a policy against letting married couples fly together, not because they're afraid they'll have sex, but because it might hurt the team dynamic. However, they made an exception for Davis and Lee since the couple got married so close to launch time. Both have refused to answer questions about the nature of their relationship during the mission. And, I bet that raises your eyebrows, doesn't it?

 Mark Lee and Jan Davis

Then, in the 1990s, rumors circulated about unorthodox coziness between Cosmonaut Elena Kondakova  and Cosmonaut Valery Polyakov on a mission to the space station Mir, especially after a video got out showing Valery playfully splashing water on Elena during the flight. So, this relationship may point to the old reasoning "where there's smoke, there's fire," and possibly flames of a sexual nature.

 Elena Kondakova

 Valery Polyakov

(Christopher Beam. "Do Astronauts Have Sex?" February 07, 2007)

Former and current astronauts don't like to talk about space-shuttle sex, and NASA says that if it's ever happened, the agency doesn't know anything about it. If astronauts ever had sex, they had to overcome some problems. Here are some blocks to joining the 250-Mile-High Club:

* Weightlessness

Weightless sex would be a challenge -- without restraints, a couple would drift apart as they pushed against each other.

Wikipedia states "The act of human intimacy, sexual activity and procreation distinguished by the state of weightlessness (precluding artificial gravity) presents difficulties surrounding the performance of most sexual activities due to Newton's Third Law."

Dr. James Logan, a physician for NASA, recently addressed the topic at a Las Vegas Convention. “It’s a pretty messy environment… for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction. Sex in zero-g is going to have to be more or less choreographed, otherwise it’s just going to be a frustration filled wild fling” Logan advised.

"Weightless, messy, wild fling" -- surely these words have attracted some willing participants. After all, no one said sex is always a "pretty ballet."

* Very Little Privacy

First off, there isn't much privacy in the quarters. A regular shuttle is about as big as a 737, and the two main areas—the crew cabin and middeck—are each the size of a small office. The bathroom is little more than a seat with a curtain, and there aren't any closed rooms where two people could retreat.

The space station, on the other hand, has a little more room to operate. The three-person crew generally splits up for sleeping time: Two of them bed down in a pair of tiny crew cabins at one end of the station, and the third might jump in a sleeping bag at the other end, almost 200 feet away.

The panel-and-strap design of a space bed might not be that conducive to lovemaking. But, perhaps some couples might even enjoy a little 50 Shades of Grey bondage and the thrill of making sex in public.

* A Demanding Work Schedule

Astronauts have little time or energy for messing around though space-station crews do get time off on weekends when they can watch movies, read books, play games, and generally have a good time.

Maybe NASA doesn't have a liberal mindset that includes a definition "good times" and "messing around." Yet, it wouldn't take too long for a quick, historical dive into sensual space ecstasy.

* Zero Gravity Can Induce Nausea

This certainly wouldn't be ideal for any traditional sexual encounters. Yet, surely some of the astronauts have awoken earthbound the morning after to feelings of coyote love.

It is reported astronauts do perspire a lot in flight, meaning sex without gravity would likely be hot and wet.

In addition, people normally experience lower blood pressure in space. And, this means lower blood flow and ... a flying fellow with a flaccid Freddie.  

But, come on. How many astronauts were test pilots and born to "push the envelope"? Wouldn't they consider it their solemn duty to make space whoopee?

Who Is In the Ultimate Carnal Club?

Despite all the problems posed by science and logistics, I have to believe such a simple deed has already been accomplished in space. I subscribe to the theory "where there's a will, there's a way," and I think the pioneering spirit alone has driven some space couple to copulate. 

But, astroblogger Wilson Rothman states, "Has anyone had sex in space? To date, I can tell you emphatically, no. Why am I so sure? It's simple. Guys are guys. If a guy had sex in space, he would not be able to stand not bragging about it."

That's certainly true of men and would seem to be the kind of thing that would be difficult to hold as a secret. Difficult but not impossible, that is.

So, who could have done more research about sex in space than the sexually inquisitive staff of Playboy Magazine? What does the Playboy Advisor say?

"Sex in space -- the final frontier. NASA says no one has become a member of the 250-mile-high club on an American mission. The Russians are another matter. There has been speculation—but no proof—that sex occurred after an adventurous female cosmonaut joined the two-man crew of a Soviet space station in 1982. We're skeptical, but that might be our patriotism showing. Space agencies in both countries have shied away from the topic, yet it's becoming relevant now that missions can last months (a manned trip to Mars would take six months each way)." 

("Has Anyone Had Sex In Space? And Other Odd Questions."  
Playboy Advisor. February 11, 2014)

I think I just shed a tear of unrequited space love. Still, one thing is certain: men and women have dreamed about sexually powered journeys for a very long time. Just who may or may not have been a history-making couple may be speculative; however, the imagination of space travelers is alive and well.

Michael Collins, Apollo 11 astronaut, published his autobiography Carrying the Fire in 1974. Then, Time Magazine quoted the following passage from his book:

"Imagine a spacecraft of the future, with a crew of a thousand ladies, off for Alpha Centauri, with 2,000 breasts bobbing beautifully and quivering delightfully in response to every weightless movement . . . and I am the commander of the craft, and it is Saturday morning and time for inspection, naturally."

The magazine followed this up by running a letter from dreamkiller and writer Sharon Smith, who said that the presence of breasts "bobbing weightlessly" would render spacemen unable to do their jobs and added that the space program must safeguard itself by the painful but necessary step of excluding men.

(Robert Sherrod. "Lunar Caustic." Time. August 08, 1974) and 
(Sharon Smith. "Letters to the Editor." Time. October 07, 1974) 

And the government stand? You can predict the official "strict, hands-off" policy. NASA commander Alan Poindexter told a reporter who asked about "the consequences if astronauts boldly went where probably no others have been" that sexual intercourse is not permitted aboard the International Space Station.

"We are professionals," Poindexter said.

"We treat each other with respect and we have a great working relationship. Personal relationships are not [...] an issue," he explained. "We don't have them and we won't."

("Sex Banned Aboard International Space Station: NASA Commander."
Huffington Post. May 25, 2011)

But, kudos to Gene Meyers of Space Island Group, that hopes to build a space hotel sometime soon. Meyers says he expects the crew sent to build the $15 billion structure will be the first humans to copulate in space. The hotel itself will include "zero-gravity romance rooms, each with a window" and "the walls will be padded and elastic cords and harnesses will hang from the ceiling."

Who, like Jimi, is ready to purchase a ticket?

"This space is where we lived, for a short time. Potential space, 
Bone space and flesh space where time, pulses, pauses….surges – where night undressed us naked, open. A new space. where hope hung in orange trees and our tears gave birth to birds that flew joyfully 
 from our eyes like the flickering of a blue flame 
and others would look on in awe."

This Space…: a Poem in Footnotes by Christopher Anthony Leibow

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