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For several hundred thousand years, humans have rested high atop Earth’s cognitive totem pole. We know a lot of things. We know why we see stripes on zebras and spots on leopards. We know that certain chemicals can halt the growth of cancer cells. We’ve even figured out how to split an atom. But when humans venture beyond Earth (because we know a little bit about how to do that, too), we find ourselves beyond our planet’s fertile spell — and beyond our understanding of things that are fairly rudimentary back home.

One of those things is sex. And the video here is about what we do and don’t know about sex and reproduction in space. Because if we’re serious about long-term space exploration and human life on Mars, well, we have our work cut out for us.

And check out more on the topic here: “Space Sex Is Serious Business

Research and narration by Maggie Koerth-Baker. Design and animation by Tom McCarten. Sound design and music editing by Redhorse Studio.


Contraception in the Cosmos: The Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill in Space” in the Journal of Family and Reproductive Health Care
Effects of Sex and Gender on Adaptations to Space: Reproductive Health” in the Journal of Women’s Health
Fish Mating Experiment in Space — What It Aimed At and How It Was Prepared” in Biological Sciences in Space
Historical Guide to NASA and the Space Program
Mammalian Development in Space” in Advances in Space Biology and Medicine
Orbital Spaceflight During Pregnancy Shapes Function of Mammalian Vestibular System” in Behavioral Neuroscience
Interview with Joseph Tash at the University of Kansas Medical Center on Nov. 29, 2016
Interview with Virginia Wotring at the Baylor College of Medicine’s Center for Space Medicine on Nov. 11, 2016.
Physiology of a Microgravity Environment Selected Contribution: Effects of Spaceflight During Pregnancy on Labor and Birth at 1G” in Journal of Applied Physiology
Rat Gestation During Spaceflight: Outcomes for Dams and Their Offspring Born After Return to Earth” in Integrative Physiological and Behavioral Science
Reproduction in the Space Environment: Part I. Animal Reproductive Studies” in Obstetrical and Gynecological Survey
Sex Ratio Shift in Offspring of Male Fixed-Wing Naval Aviation Officers” in Military Medicine
The Biosatellite II Mission” in BioScience
“The Effect of Microgravity on Prenatal Development of Mammals” in Physiologist
The Potential Influence of the Microbiota and Probiotics on Women During Long Spaceflights” in Women’s Health


Christine Laskowski was a video producer for FiveThirtyEight.


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