The Dumbbell nebula
Image: AP

Not to be flippant about science, especially in these times, but this NASA experiment does carry a whiff of desperation and last-ditch elan!

On Monday, Popular Mechanics reported that scientists aboard the International Space Station began experiments on samples of human and bull semen. The official purpose of these tests are to see whether sperm will be able to fulfill its reproductive function in space.

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A summary of the experiment, called Micro 11, produced by NASA explains, ā€œThe survival of multiple generations of organisms beyond the Earth requires proper function of normal sperm and eggs cells. There exists a significant knowledge gap on impacts of spaceflight conditions on the fertility-dependent functions of sperm.ā€

Louis Stodieck, the director of BioServe, the company that designed Micro 11, elaborated to Popular Mechanics, ā€œIn space, scientists can learn more about biochemical changes in various cells and organisms that the force of gravity on Earth may be masking.ā€

According to Popular Mechanics, NASA has called this experiment the ā€œfirst rigorous testā€ of how space travel might affect spermā€™s ability to perform. But perhaps it wonā€™t surprise you to read that this is not the first time humans have decided to shoot sperm into space and study the effects. In 1988, for instance, a German researcher put some bull semen into orbit around the European Space Agency rocket. The goal was modest: to discover whether changes in gravity affected the movement of the sperm (hell yeah it did).

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It kind of feels like weā€™re shooting sperm into space and seeing what sticks. And when the children of outer space crawl back to Earth to reclaim the tattered remains of humanity I will totally eat my words!