30
$\begingroup$

The Russians did some early testing with rats (Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, By Mary Roach pg 245) and natural means did not result in pregnancy. Later testing shipped pregnant rats into space, where some health issues developed.

NASA research indicates that female astronauts have given birth after flying in space, some difficulties in achieving pregnancy are reported, but attributed to age, secondary to delaying attempts while pursing careers. (Principles of Clinical Medicine for Space Flight edited by Michael R. Barratt, Sam Lee Pool page 384)

Is there any research on mammal impregnation occurring naturally in space?

Edit, clarify that this question is about the impregnation --> Egg and Sperm join, Cells divide and attach to the uterus; the 1979 Russian study indicates there were problems at this stage.

$\endgroup$
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ This question is awesome. The easy answer is yes. I know of some research on this topic as well ... I am really looking forward to a good answer for this one. Please do not speculate, read the studies first and enjoy them! $\endgroup$ – s-m-e Jul 21 '13 at 19:57
  • $\begingroup$ If someone cares to go on the wild goose chase through Slashdot archives, you'll find the source: Yes, you can get pregnant during or after space flight, but the offspring will be infertile, at least after lengthy space travel. The space radiation damages the egg cells in such way. That was cited as a major roadblock in settling Mars. $\endgroup$ – SF. Jul 21 '13 at 20:19
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ They fly a pregnancy test kit on the ISS....so someone is not ruling it out. spaceref.com/iss/medical/4041.pregnancy.pdf $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Mar 27 '15 at 1:32
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble - oh man. That is such a delicious little fact, i wish it it stood out a little more... $\endgroup$ – kim holder Mar 27 '15 at 2:14
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Related question Why is there a pregnancy test kit on the ISS? $\endgroup$ – James Jenkins Mar 27 '15 at 10:32
10
$\begingroup$

Dr. Tore Straume of NASA's BioSciences Division actually published a paper on this very topic. Titled: "Radiation Hazards and the Colonization of Mars: Brain, Body, Pregnancy, In-Utero Development, Cardio, Cancer, Degeneration"

The study conducted by them concluded that the Space radiation negatively affects Male fertility. The Cosmic Radiation during travel is supposed to so high that it can significantly decrease the male sperm count and they would also sterilize human fetus. The only solution to that seems to be better shielding from cosmic radiation.

The critical health effect (most radiosensitive) for human colonization of Mars may turn out to be infertility in women resulting from radiation exposure in utero. Although direct human data are not available for this effect, studies in non-human primates have found that oocytes are extremely radiosensitive during gestation, i.e., 50% killed following only 0.07 Sv of chronic tritium beta rays (similar in biological effectiveness to x rays and GCR protons).

Also another obstacle or problem seems to be the effect of the lack of gravity on the bone development process.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Noting that you get up to about 0.1 to 0.3mSv per year of Cosmic Rays on Earth src, (and about 2.4mSv to 6.4mSv total radiation), but an estimated 400 to 900mSv per year src in space, that really puts the 70mSv dosage in the test to the "over what timeframe" question, as it's known that over time, some immune response does handle low-level exposure changes. $\endgroup$ – aramis Jul 23 '13 at 8:58
  • $\begingroup$ @aramis Is your data using the best shielding available to humans to use? Or is it shiedling that meet the mission requirements which the data you collected may just be a add on and not taken into consideration $\endgroup$ – Enigma Maitreya Mar 17 '17 at 22:50
  • $\begingroup$ The data was NASA's for onboard the Apollo, Shuttle, ISS and Skylab data. None of which are best available to use, because such is too expensive to fly, because it's massive. $\endgroup$ – aramis Mar 19 '17 at 19:37
7
$\begingroup$

Strictly speaking, the answer to your question is yes. As I have explained in answer to a related question (What animals, if any, have reproduced in space?), nematodes are able to experience a full reproduction cycle in space. Nematodes are considered pregnant at a point in this cycle, and their pregnancy does meet your definition:

Egg and Sperm join, Cells divide and attach to the uterus

Now, obviously nematodes are not mammals, and though some are ovoviviparous, the species observed in space is not. I am not aware of any mammals that have been observed to get pregnant in space.

$\endgroup$
3
$\begingroup$

Another attempt to figure out for vertebrates is to be conducted on the Foton-M4 spacrecraft this summer.

Check out the google translation of the flight experiment program: http://biosputnik.imbp.ru/science_f.html

The Gecko-F4 experiment states as its first objectives:

  • to create the conditions for sexual behavior, copulation and breeding of geckos in the orbital experiment;
  • to record on camera the sexual behavior of Phelsuma ornata and possible oviposition, and to maximize the probability of survival for eggs that can be laid during the experiment;

Let's wait just a couple of months.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Do you have an update to this answer? $\endgroup$ – James Jenkins Nov 6 '14 at 10:11
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Nothing has been published yet, afaict. The same number of geckos have returned to earth. All geckos have died just a couple of days before returning, they say. But were some of them pregnant? Not clear. $\endgroup$ – horsh Nov 6 '14 at 12:43
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The fresh issue of Novosti Kosmonavtiki states the geckos were not pregnant on autopsy :-( $\endgroup$ – horsh Nov 21 '14 at 22:37

protected by Community Dec 20 '18 at 14:38

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.