The Straight Dope | The Straight Dope | Chicago Reader

The Straight Dope 


Re your column on sex in space [February 28], I don't know if this helps, but I found a report at It seems pretty authentic, i.e., none of the sophomoric gags that usually indicate a hoax. Dunno if this helps. --Andy Blau, Toronto, Ontario

Yes, this definitely sounds like the real thing. The report, which purports to be a scientific account of attempts to determine the feasibility of sex at zero G, is posted on a Web site entitled "Chuck's Weird World." You just know this has got to be a major depository of official government documents. The report is right next to the supposed radio transcript of the last moments of the Challenger astronauts (Oh, look! The shuttle blew up! We are falling into the ocean! I am so bummed!), which we've previously determined to be a hoax. Also on the page I see Chuck has a picture of Kurt Cobain's head after he blew his brains out. No kidding. Pretty yucky. Where people come up with this stuff I don't want to know.

Still. We're nothing if not thorough here at the Straight Dope. I called NASA back. My friend Mike was not in. Or rather Mike didn't answer his phone. Told you I was having problems with caller ID. So I talked to James instead. I swear I could hear this guy's eyes roll. James repeated the standard line, namely that nobody in the U.S. program had ever had sex in space, and they certainly hadn't conducted experiments on it, and the nearest thing he could think of to a sex experiment that they had conducted was one time when they sent up some fish embryos--but even those were fertilized before the flight, and anyway it's not like anybody's going to make big money selling videos of humping fish. (I know you didn't ask about videos, but I expect to see them show up on Chuck's Weird World any day. Also, to forestall any further mailings on this subject, I've already heard the joke about "Ride Sally Ride.")

So now you're saying, another massive government cover-up. Absolutely. Tell me this doesn't sound authentic: "The number of married couples currently involved in proposals for long-term projects on the U.S. space station has grown considerably in recent years. This raises the serious question of how such couples will be able to carry out normal marital relations without the aid of gravity." Yeah, like they're going to explode if they can't wait till they get back. My idea: send up couples with small children. They're already used to the celibate life. Though come to think of it, if mom and dad knew somebody else were going to be watching the kids they might be tempted to give it a stab.

Back to the report. Ten, ah, reproductive modalities were allegedly tried. These involved (1) an elastic belt holding the partners together, (2) an inflatable tunnel, and (3) various, how shall we say, grips. All had their drawbacks. "It was difficult to obtain the necessary thrusting motion," blah, blah, blah. Right. Give me ten minutes and some Velcro, and I bet you I'd figure something out.

Oh, yeah. At the end of the report is this incredible line of baloney about partnerless subjects who were provided with a "manipulator" connected to a "two-hidden-layer back-error propagation neural network" for use as a "unisexual device." You say this doesn't reflect any of the "sophomoric gags that usually indicate a hoax," Andy, and in this you are undoubtedly right. Show me the sophomore who can spell "propagation." Then again, looking at the situation in its totality, you can't deny there's some satisfaction in thinking, my tax dollars at work.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Illustration by Slug Signorino.

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