If this spaceship's a-rockin…

By Phil Plait | February 14, 2009 5:47 pm

My friend Moriel has a new website called SmartAxe, an extension of her Smarter Than That site. She’s trying (and succeeding) in making science education fun and perhaps a wee bit silly.

For Valentine’s Day she took on an interesting topic… sex in space. I’ve had my own thoughts on writing about this, using various concepts — like "How do you have a candlelit romantic dinner in microgravity?" and "What about Newton’s Third Law?" — to tackle some fun science concepts. Moriel does the same thing at her site, and it makes for some good reading… so do it with the one you love. It’s worth it just to see the picture she posts at the bottom of the page.


Comments (23)

  1. Having just watched HANCOCK, (spoiler)

    I also was thinking of “Man of Steel, Woman of Tissue”.



  2. Why don’t they ask someone who’s done it? What? No one has admitted to it yet?

  3. Flip

    Well, in a way both parties get to “be on top” in space. ūüėČ

  4. Davidlpf

    The official precedure is in NASAs instructional booklet “Dockine precedures for male and female connectors”.

  5. @ Flip:

    I seem to recall Isaac Asimov writing something about that very, um, benefit, sometime in the early 70s.

  6. J Earley

    OK, but will they get a copy of the NASA Sutra?
    (tip o’ the hat to Arthur Clarke)

  7. Who cares about a candlelit dinner in space! Let’s get to the good stuff! The 100,000 mile high club.

  8. Gary Ansorge

    My brudder, the Rocket Scientist, who worked in the space industry for quite a number of years, swears we’ve(Americans) already indulged in space sex. Unfortunately, his evidence is anecdotal and we all know how reliable that is,,,however, he is one of the most hard headed, pragmatic and honest men I’ve ever known so, take this for what ever you think it’s worth.

    Rock and Roll is here(and there) forever,,,

    GAry 7

  9. Gary Ansorge

    I would also point out, he said that one should consider how dolphins handle sex in a weightless environment, ie, it takes three to tango,,,

    Gary 7

  10. MadScientist

    Hmm. When did the ‘plastic’ terminology come in? I’m familiar with an ‘elastic’ and ‘inelastic’ collision but I’ve never heard ‘plastic’ before.

    The definition of ‘collision’ presented defies reality.

    The picture at the bottom defies physics …

    In tribute to Isaac Asimov, I’d recommend a spinning toroidal section of the space craft to mimick gravity – we can call it the “love belt”.

  11. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    I wouldn’t worry too much about the technical side, a standard docking interface is developed.

    There are also rumors that participants will feel like they are in heaven, and that they may occasionally see stars after exertion.

    When did the ‚Äėplastic‚Äô terminology come in

    Beats me, ‘rubber’ is a lot more convenient and durable. But then I hear sex ed took a nose dive in US with the ‘abstinence only’/’don’t learn about preventives’ policy.

  12. “There are also rumors that participants will feel like they are in heaven, and that they may occasionally see stars after exertion.”

    I’m suddenly seeing why space tourism is such a popular topic with the millionaire set.

  13. uknesvuinng

    It’s a bit of a wait still, but you just know that as soon as commercial space flight is cheap that space porn will be all over the place.

  14. Valis

    I seem to recall Isaac Asimov writing something about that very, um, benefit, sometime in the early 70s.

    I’m not sure if we’re talking about the same thing, but I do remember an article published in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine back in the 70s titled “The Third Dolphin” (See Gary’s comment above). I don’t recall that it was written by Asimov himself though (will have to check my collection ).

  15. M.J.

    I recall a strange moment in television when I saw Isaac Asimov on the Dr. Ruth Westheimer show sometime in the mid 80’s. I don’t remember much about the show except that Asimov agreed that sex in space would be aided by padded walls.

    Maybe it’s on youtube somewhere.

  16. IVAN3MAN

    Dr. Phil Plait:

    I‚Äôve had my own thoughts on writing about this, using various concepts ‚ÄĒ like “How do you have a candlelit romantic dinner in microgravity?”

    Well, since nobody has mentioned this, I’ll do so; this is what a candle flame looks like in microgravity:

    Candle Flame in Microgravity

    Candle Flame in Microgravity

    In zero gravity, convection does not carry the hot combustion products
    away from the fuel source, resulting in a spherical flame front.
    (Click on the picture for more information.)
  17. As long as you keep one limb hooked around the other participant, maintaining proper orbital attitude and target separation (or lack thereof) is a non-issue. No special clothing required (though always appreciated…)

    I speak from personal experience.

  18. John Charles

    Mr. Woodhead, thank you for saying what I have always thought! Why wouldn’t our amorous astronauts dispense with all the mechanical aids, and simply embrace each other? (Maybe one of them could also keep a foot in a foot-loop if they insisted on remaining in one place.) Then all the concerns about thrust and collisions could be dismissed as the unnecessary distractions they are.

  19. 1973 – Isaac Asimov, ‚ÄúSex in a Spaceship,‚ÄĚ Sexology (January 1973). Reprinted in Science Past ‚Äď Science Future, 1975

    And this from my hero, Sir Arthur:

    ‚ÄúWeightlessness will bring new forms of erotica. About time, too.‚ÄĚ

  20. Gary Ansorge


    AH! Space porn. Another way to make expansion into,,,space,,,a very profitable venture,,,

    GAry 7

  21. Craig

    Madscientist: based on what I hear from researchers working on the vestibular system, the whole “spin the ship for artificial gravity” idea isn’t quite as practical as it’s been made to appear by SF writers. Apparently there’s a tendency for such setups to induce nasty coriolis-like currents in the inner ear, with effects generally described as “intensely nauseogenic”.

    Not terribly romantic, especially if you’re the one who has to clean up the results.

  22. Scott

    It’s been done underwater and that’s pretty weightless. I’m guessing the partners could just hold on to each other with one person secured firmly to a bulkhead.

  23. John, you have it exactly. No doubt women will particularly appreciate Zero-G sex because of all the extra hugging involved.

    One social change that may occur is that it may become acceptable to wear only socks to bed (any man who does this in normal gravity conditions is ridiculed, and rightly so), as long as they incorporate velcro. This would avoid the embarrassing problem of accidentally floating into the big red retro-rocket button and suffering a case of premature deorbitulation.

    BTW, I encourage everyone to do a Zero-G flight and gather more data points. Great fun.


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