This is the first in a three-part series about sex and gender issues in space. Read about reproduction and sexism in space.
Now that Earth has had a co-ed space station in orbit for over three decades, the obvious question must be raised once again: What goes on behind closed hatches? Have any of the astronauts ever taken things to the next level?
There have, for the record, been no official, confirmed reports of inappropriate behavior, consensual or otherwise, among Shuttle, Soyuz, Shenzhou, or ISS crew members. Yet these official denials haven't stopped minds on Earth from speculating about how those in orbit might be passing some of their most private time.
Imaginations were set aflame in 1992 when it was reported that Jan Davis and Mark Lee, two astronauts who went to orbit aboard Space Shuttle Endeavor, had secretly married nine months prior to their mission. The deployment of husband and wife on the same mission was a first for NASA—the space agency subsequently forbade such pairings—and immediately prompted speculation that they may have been the first couple in history to consummate their marriage free from the surly bonds of Earth.
While there has been a human presence in space since 1961, the topic of sex in space continues to be woefully under-examined. There are several reasons for this, one of them being that most manned missions to space have not been long enough in duration to push NASA to seriously address the question. When you're just trying to figure out how to survive in a uniquely hostile environment, "knowing in the Biblical sense" sits pretty low on the list of pressing scientific questions that need to be answered. But not for long.
"I do think there is a time when sexuality in space is going to have to be addressed," said Paul Root Wolpe, the Director of Emory University's Center for Ethics and a senior bioethicist at NASA. "I do not know if NASA has an official policy on sex in space, [but] there will be a time when NASA needs to make so...