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If you've ever wondered what it would be like to reproduce in space, scientists have some news for you. A new study out of the University of Montreal states that cellular development can be harmed by low-gravity, meaning any potential offspring could be crippled.
The study draws its conclusions by looking at how plants' reproduction is affected by low gravity. This is not, however, a stamp of disapproval on the actual act of having sex in space, which would require a completely different kind of approach...
The scientists looked at how different gravity levels affected the growth of pollen tubes, which are the result of pollen landing on the stigma, a female sexual organ of a flowering plant. They also grow faster than any other cell in the animal kingdom, making them easier to study. Rather than actually testing the tubes out in space, however, the researchers utilized centrifuges and the European Space Agency's Random Positioning Machine. What they found was that hypergravity made the tubes wider, and that microgravity made the tubes smaller.
"The intercellular trafficking, which occurs in very precisely defined paths in these cells, was affected," study author Anja Geitmann, a biologist at the University of Montreal, said.
What this essentially translates to is that developing cells are indeed affected by gravity, and if a human fetus's cell interactions were constricted, it could lead to a severe underflow of proper building blocks. Either way, if it's going to be an altered developmental process, it can't be good, and could lead to diseases such as Parkinson's.
So as far as actually having sex in space is concerned, there hasn't been any official comment on that. Even NASA doesn't explicitly prohibit it among its astronauts, who spend months together in closed quarters. Still, it raises an important question: If it is harmful to the baby to conceive in space, is it unethical?