A Sperm Bank In Space Could Help Establish Mars Colonies
The colonisation of Mars could be made easier after new research suggests sperm could survive zero gravity conditions,
The study has surprising implications for space exploration, opening up the possibility that frozen sperm could be transported to space to create "a human sperm bank outside of Earth" -- and expand humanity's reach to Mars.
The results were presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology annual meeting in Vienna, Austria, showing sperm could survive the conditions it would encounter on its way to a space colony.
Previous tests showed a low-gravity environment could disrupt the structure and function of cells, but tests by Dexeus Women's Health in Barcelona show this is not the case with sperm.
"Some studies suggest a significant decrease in the motility of human fresh sperm sample," said Dr Montserrat Boada, from Dexeus Women's Health.
"But nothing has been reported on the possible effects of gravitational differences on frozen human gametes, in which state they could be transported from Earth to space."
The researchers used sperm from 10 healthy donors, exposing some of the samples to microgravity using a small aerobatic aircraft.
The samples were then analysed for concentration, motility and DNA fragmentation, to check for fertility.
No significant differences were found between the samples kept on the ground and those exposed to microgravity, according to the study.
"The lack of differences observed in the sperm characteristics between frozen samples exposed to microgravity and those maintained in ground conditions open the possibility of safely transporting male gametes to space and considering the possibility of creating a human sperm bank outside of Earth," the researchers said.
The research could be used to help widen the gene pool in a future colony, with same-sex crews reportedly being considered for Mars exploration.
In 2017, British astronaut Helen Sharman told a conference an unreleased report by NASA had researched the sexual desires of its crew members.
“It found that the crew should be the same gender -- all men or all women," she told the New Scientist Live conference.
The report is said to have found same-sex crews were the most effective because of better cohesion, and an all-women crew was preferred due to their "superior" cooperation skills.
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Earlier this year, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the first person on Mars is "likely to be a woman".
NASA hope to have humans on Mars by the 2030s, using the Moon as a stopover point.