Experiment 8 Postflight Summary

Space Sex


NASA publication 14-307-1792


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.

Summary Of Results

  1. An elastic belt around the waist of the two partners. The partners faced each other in the standard or missionary posture.
    1. Entry was difficult and once it was achieved, it was difficult to maintain. With the belt worn around the hips, entry was easy, but it was difficult to obtain the necessary thrusting motion; as a result, this approach was not satisfactory.
  2. Elastic belts around the thighs of the two partners. The female's buttocks were against the groin of the male, with her back against his chest.
    1. An interesting experiment, but ultimately unsatisfactory because of the difficulty of obtaining the necessary thrusting motion.
  3. An elastic belt binding the thighs of the female to the waist of the male. The female's buttocks were against the male's groin, while her knees straddled his chest.
    1. Of the approaches tried with an elastic belt, this was by far the most satisfactory. Entry was difficult, but after the female discovered how to lock her toes over the male's thighs, it was found that she could obtain the necessary thrusting motions. The male found that his role was unusually passive but pleasant.
    2. One problem both partners noticed with all three elastic belt solutions was that they reminded the partners of practices sometimes associated with bondage, a subject that neither found particularly appealing. For couples who enjoy such associations, however, and especially for those who routinely enjoy female superior relations, this solution should be recommended.
  4. An inflatable tunnel enclosing and pressing the partners together. The partners faced each other in the standard missionary posture. The tunnel enclosed the partners roughly from the knees to waist and pressed them together with an air pressure of approximately 0.01 standard atmospheres.
    1. Once properly aroused, the uniform pressure obtained from the tunnel was sufficient to allow fairly normal marital relations, but getting aroused while in the tunnel was difficult, and once aroused outside the tunnel, getting in was difficult. This problem made the entire approach largely unusable.
  5. The same inflatable tunnel used in run 4, but enclosing the partners legs only. The partners faced each other in the missionary position.
  6. The same inflatable tunnel used in run 4, but with the partners in the posture used for run 2.
    1. Foreplay was satisfactory with both approaches; in the second case, we found that it could be accomplished inside the tunnel, quite unlike our experience with run 4. Unfortunately, we were unable to achieve entry with either approach.
    2. A general disadvantage of the inflatable tunnel approach was that the tunnel itself tended to get sticky with sweat and other discharges. We feel that the difficulty of keeping a tunnel clean in zero-G makes these solutions most unsatisfactory.
  7. The standard missionary posture, augmented by having the female hook her legs around the male's thighs and both partners hug each other.
  8. The posture used in run 3, but with the female holding herself against the male by gripping his buttocks with her heels.
    1. Initially, these were very exciting and promising approaches, but as the runs approached their climaxes, an unexpected problem arose. One or the one or the other partner tended to let go, and the hold provided by the remaining partner was insufficient to allow continued thrusts. We think that partners with sufficient self-control might be able to use these positions, but we found them frustrating.
  9. The posture used in run 2, but with the male using his hands to hold the female while the female used her heels to hold the male's thighs.
    1. Most of the responsibility for success rested on the male here, and we were successful after a series of false starts, but we did not find the experience to be particularly rewarding.
  10. Each partner gripping the other's head between their thighs and hugging the other's hips with their arms.
    1. This was the only run involving non-procreative marital relations, and it was included largely because it provided the greatest number of distinct ways for each partner to hold the other. This 4 points redundant hold was good enough that we found this solution to be most satisfactory. In fact, it was more rewarding than analogous postures used in a gravitational field.


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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