A report from the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has warned NASA about the potential pitfalls of long-distance exploration missions, citing the dangers of sexual conflict and even infidelity causing a breakdown of crew functioning.
With missions to the Moon taking in the possibility of six months – in the latter stages of the Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) – and Mars mission taking up to 30 months, the report notes the dangers of the crews getting too friendly out in space.
The author of the report, Lawrence Palinkas, a medical anthropologist at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, claims that with “the prospect of a very long-term mission, it’s hard to ignore the question of sexuality.”
Palinkas also believes NASA should take the study seriously, as ignoring the potential for such a personal problem with future astronauts could derail missions.
Picking up on the study, the New Scientist noted an example of the problems that could be encountered, when it reported that “during an 8-month space station simulation on Earth in 2000, a Russian man twice tried to kiss a Canadian woman researcher just after two other Russians had gotten into a bloody brawl.”
As a result, locks were installed between the Russian and international crews’ compartments.”
However, experts have added that sexual acts could be beneficial in reducing boredom on long missions, while noting the difficulty in zero gravity, added to by the lack of privacy.