The purpose of this experiment was to prepare for the expected participation in long-term space based research by husband-wife teams once the US space station is in place. To this end, the investigators explored a number of possible approaches to continued marital relations in the zero-G orbital environment provided by the XXXXXX shuttle mission.
Our primary conclusion is that satisfactory marital relations are within the realm of possibility in zero-G, but that many couples would have difficulty getting used to the approaches we found to be most satisfactory.
The number of married couples currently involved in proposals for long- term projects on the US 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.
Preliminary studies in the short-term weightless environment provided by aircraft flying on ballistic trajectories were sufficient to demonstrate that there were problems, but the duration of the zero-G environment on such flights is too short to reach any satisfactory conclusions. Similar experiments undertaken in a neutral buoyancy tank were equally inconclusive because of the awkwardness of the breathing equipment.
The primary conclusion that could be drawn from these early experiments was that the conventional approach to marital relationships (sometimes described as the missionary approach) is highly dependent on gravity to keep the partners together. This observation lead us to propose the set of tests known as STS-75 Experiment 8.
The co-investigators had exclusive use of the lower deck of the shuttle XXXXXXXX for 10 intervals of 1 hour each during the orbital portion of the flight. A resting period of a minimum of 4 hours was included in the schedule between intervals. During each interval, the investigators erected a pneumatic sound deadening barrier between the lower deck and the flight deck (see NASA publication 12-571-3570) and carried out one run of the experiment.
Each experimental run was planned in advance to test one approach to the problem. We made extensive use of a number of published sources in our efforts to find satisfactory solutions see Appendix I), arriving at an initial list of 20 reasonable solutions. Of these, we used computer simulation (using the mechanical dynamics simulation package from the CADSI company) to determine the 10 most promising solutions.
Six solutions utilized mechanical restraints to simulate the effect of gravity, while the others utilized only the efforts of the experimenters to solve the problem. Mechanical and unassisted runs were alternated, and each experimental run was videotaped for later analysis. Immediately after each run, the experimenters separately recorded their observations, and then jointly reviewed the videotapes and recorded joint observations.
The sensitive nature of the videotapes and first-hand observations pre- cludes a public release of the raw data. The investigators have pre- pared this paper to summarize their results, and they intend to release a training videotape for internal NASA use, constructed from selected segments of the videotapes and additional narrative material.
The following summary is organized in two sections; the first covers the mechanical solutions, while the second covers the "natural" approaches. Each solution is described briefly, and then followed by a brief summary of the result. Some summaries are combined.
We recommend that married couples considering maintaining their marital relations during a space mission be provided with an elastic belt such as we used for run 3 (see Appendix II). In addition, we advise that a training program be developed that recommends the solutions used in runs 3 and 10 and warns against the problems encountered in runs 7 and 8.
We recognize that any attempt by NASA to recommend approaches to marital relationships will be politically risky, but we feel that, especially in cases where long missions are planned, thought be given to screening couples applying to serve on such missions for their ability to accept or adapt to the solutions used in runs 3 and 10.
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