Recently, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully deployed the Dragon capsule at the International Space Station (ISS). The Dragon capsule docked at the space station two days after the launch. The capsule carried around 5,800 lbs. (2,630 kilograms) of cargo for the Expedition 55 crew members that are currently aboard the ISS. Along with various science experiments, supplies and hardware, the cargo also included the Micro-11 mission.
This Micro-11 mission consisted of a bunch of containers of frozen human and bull sperm. NASA has launched this mission to send human sperms to outer space. The ISS crew members will thaw the frozen sperms and then study how weightlessness in space affects the sperm’s mobility and also its ability to prepare to fuse with an egg, as mentioned in NASA statement.
The NASA officials wrote, “Previous experiments with sea urchin and bull sperm suggest that activating movement happens more quickly in microgravity while steps leading up to fusion happen more slowly, or not at all.” That means if delay occurs at the time of fusion of sperm with the egg, then this could prevent the occurrence of fertilization in space. NASA officials said that the agency has sent bull sperms to space along with human sperms because the bull cells are more consistent in activity as well as appearance than the human sperm.
By studying both types of sperms, the astronauts will be able to figure out whether any strange behavior shown by any particular sperm is due to the sperm itself or due to the effects of microgravity. According to the scientists, the bull sperm test results will be the base for the study of the human sperms in space. Through the Micro-11 mission, NASA aims to make sex in space a reality.
For the research, first, the astronauts will thaw the frozen sperm samples and then will add chemical mixtures to the sperms to make them move and get prepared for fusion with an egg. With the help of video, they will assess the mobility of the sperm. After that, the samples will be mixed with preservatives and returned to Earth. Once the samples reach the Earth, their fusion process will be studied and tested at the University of Kansas to find out whether the sperm samples from space differ in behavior from that of the sperms activated on Earth.