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State of Mind: SpaceseX

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It’s time to think again about space, that good old “final frontier.”  

NASA’s Artemis project is finally getting off the ground and trying to put humans on the moon again after a hiatus of more than 50 years. That has helped refocus the attention of the media on human space travel. 

But the news is filled with much more than reports of NASA activities. There is Virgin Galactic, which bills itself as a space “travel” company. It recently made its fifth excursion to the edge of space with paying passengers. 

Jeff Bezos’s company Blue Origin offers seats aboard its New Shepard spacecraft for suborbital flights to the edge of space. Even Captain Kirk himself, actor William Shatner, made history by becoming the oldest person to fly in space at age 90 aboard the New Shepard. 

And who can ignore Elon Musk’s SpaceX rockets. They look, shall we say, “sexier” than a Saturn 5 even if occasionally one explodes. SpaceX, too, is offering to take customers to the edge of space or even to the International Space Station if you can afford the multimillion dollar ticket.

There is also talk of luxury hotels in orbit in the near future. Think of HBO’s “White Lotus” resort minus a swimming pool and gravity.

This means the age of space tourism is upon us. Since only the mega-rich will be able to afford space travel, at least for the next 10,000 years or so, we can rest assured that every consideration will be given to passenger comfort and convenience. 

Can the basic needs of multimillionaires be met in weightlessness? Will they be happy eating gourmet meals out of squeeze tubes during a six-month trip to Mars? Will the lack of hot showers make them crazy during the six-month return voyage? 

Buried within these considerations is that such space-traveling humans, in addition to requiring food, water, alcoholic beverages, and access to the NYSE stock ticker, will also have a tremendous urge to reproduce. At some point, some wealthy and enterprising passengers, becoming bored with staring out a porthole at the Andromeda Galaxy or the Horsehead Nebula for months at a time, will find that the moon has hit their eye “like a big pizza pie” and will try to join what writer Kim Tingley in the “Space Issue” of The New York Times Sunday magazine (Nov. 12, 2023) referred to as the “250-Mile-High Club.” Hey! As Dean Martin crooned, “That’s Amore!”

Although no one has yet, to anyone’s knowledge, attempted to do it in space, science and simple logic tell us sex in space is way more complicated than finding a seductive way to slip out of those bulky space suits. There are many factors working against good old-fashioned sex inside a spaceship.

First of all, you are only weightless for a few minutes on suborbital flights, so where’s the fun in that?

Then there is the mood-setting atmosphere. Potential space lovers could probably get used to a rapid sunrise and sunset every 90 minutes in low Earth orbit. But from what I’ve read about life on the International Space Station, between the special foods consumed by the inhabitants, which in weightlessness cause higher degrees of flatulence; the hours of sweaty exercise needed to remain in shape while weightless; and being restricted to what are essentially “sponge baths” (no showers on the ISS), the aroma inside the ISS is worse than that in the boys locker room of my old high school. Hopefully, incidents of towel-popping are much less frequent on the ISS (which raises the question, can you even pop a towel in a state of weightlessness?).

Privacy and personal space are also factors. Aboard the ISS, each crew member has a container about the size of a small shower stall in which to sleep. Such close quarters actually could prove beneficial unionwise if two persons squeeze into one personal space, but beware, should you doze off together, weightlessness increases the possibility of snoring, and just getting the other person to roll over won’t fix it.

In space, the lack of gravity is a great equalizer. It will be difficult to “get between the sheets” because the sheets would want to just float away. There is no “top” or “bottom” because there is no “up” or “down.” And with a lack of gravity, we are all subject to Newton’s Third Law of Motion — any action creates an equal and opposite reaction. That means that even a simple kiss may be impossible because the participants, in pressing their lips against each other, would instantly force themselves apart. The same holds true for any other actions. 

And if our space tourists are successful and reach some sort of, uh, apogee, how can they know for sure? From the vantage point of orbit the Earth is always moving.

Mechanical assistance will be required in almost every aspect of sex in space. So as space tourism becomes more and more popular, the name of Swiss electrical engineer George de Mestral may join the likes of Alfred Kinsey and Masters and Johnson in the pantheon of pioneers in the advancement of human sexuality. 

De Mestral invented Velcro.