June 30, 2010

Space Is No Place For Sex

According to press reports, veteran NASA shuttle commander Alan Poindexter said in Tokyo this week that there is no time for sex in space among professional astronauts.

Poindexter told reporters that astronauts in space focus on the mission at hand first, not each other.

"We are a group of professionals," AFP quoted Poindexter as saying to a reporter who asked about the possibilities of sex in space during a Tokyo press event.

He said that the key is respect for one's crewmates and for the serious job of flying in space.

"We treat each other with respect and we have a great working relationship. Personal relationships are not ... an issue," Poindexter said. "We don't have them and we won't."

Poindexter and his crewmates were all in Tokyo to discuss their trip taken earlier this year to stock up the International Space Station with supplies and science equipment.

That mission featured four women, which is the most of that gender that has ever been in space together.  The group included Japan's second female astronaut Naoko Yamazaki and three NASA astronauts.

NASA started flying mixed-gender crews into space in 1983, which sparked rumors and stories of sexual escapades while floating in orbit.

Science journalist Laura Woodmansee devoted an entire book in 2006 to the mechanics of hypothetical romantic interludes in space.  A Japanese company announced plans in 2008 to marry couples in space on future suborbital spaceflights.

Some scientists said that to further space exploration, sex in space is vital in order to keep multi-generational ships going during spaceflights that could take decades or centuries.

Despite Poindexter saying intimate relationships do not happen in space, astronauts have been known to start relationships from time to time on Earth.

NASA astronaut Shannon Walker is currently married to fellow astronaut Andrew Thomas, who watched his wife launch into space on a Russian Soyuz rocket on June 15 to board the International Space Station.

Other NASA astronauts that have married include:  active spaceflyers Megan McArthur and Robert Behnken; former astronauts Robert "Hoot" Gibson and Rhea Seddon; Steve Nagel and Linda Godwin; and Peter "Jeff" Wisoff and Tammy Jernigan.  The European and Russian space programs also has astronaut couples that are married.

NASA launched two married astronauts in 1992, Mark Kee and Jan Davis, aboard the space shuttle Endeavour.  However, Kee and Davis separated in 1999.

Steve Hawley and Sally Ride, the first American women in space, were another astronaut couple.

A love triangle between astronauts took placed in 2007 when Lisa Nowack was arrested for allegedly attacking a romantic rival for the affections of fellow astronaut William Oefelein, a space shuttle pilot at the time.  Both astronauts were U.S. Navy officers.  Nowack pleaded guilty to felony burglary of a conveyance and a misdemeanor battery last year, and was given probation instead of jail time.