Houston, we have a baby • Good Assurance


"Most pregnant women I know feel very comfortable knowing that they have access to medical help in case of a problem during a delivery – or before, or after, a delivery Says Virginia Wotring, professor of space medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. "Put people in a situation where they are very numerous, very numerous, far from the medical help does not seem desirable."

Let's leave aside, for a moment, the question of how SpaceLife will time the labor contractions with the launch of a rocket so that its participant settles in the space just in time for delivery. Astronauts generally experience a force of gravity three times higher when they climb into orbit. In the case of a missed launch and an emergency landing, this force triplets. The effect of such extreme pressure on a pregnant person is unclear.

There is not much in the literature that guides us on what can happen in orbit. Reproductive experiments were conducted in space, but were limited to mice, fish, lizards and invertebrates. In the 1990s, pregnant female rats gave birth after a week on US space shuttle mission. Each rat is born with an underdeveloped vestibular system, the structure of the inner ear that allows mammals to balance and orient themselves. As scientists suspected, the lack of gravity had thrown the puppies aside. The equilibrium of animals was restored shortly after birth, but the lesson is clear: infants need gravity.

Imagine a childbirth without her. The pregnant woman would be unable to walk to ease the pain of labor, to take advantage of pulling down gravity as she pushed. The thought of administering an epidural seems terrifying; the anesthesiologist should make sure that the patient does not move away from the car because she has carefully placed a needle to the spinal cord. Body fluids would be heap in the blobs and slide through the capsule.

When the time came, the baby's first breaths sucked air out of a sealed metal box, made of oxygen manufactured by complex artificial systems, not plant life. "A baby might be breathing a different gas mixture than the air in the Earth," said Wotring. "Adult humans seem to support it, but if you used your lungs for the first time, would it make a difference? I do not know."

After delivery, mom and baby should survive the descent to Earth. For current astronauts, this implies a free fall into the atmosphere, followed by a parachute landing in the Kazakhstan desert. In the field, the team would be faced with another unusual question: where do you get a birth certificate for someone born in space?

The list of strangers lengthens again and again. SpaceLife Origin seems to be an unusual actor in such a dangerous venture. The top three employees named on the company's website are leaders with no background in medicine or spaceflight, including Edelbroek, whose biography describes him as a "serial entrepreneur". Five counselors are listed, including two women. Edelbroek says his interest stems in part from his experience as a sperm donor, which has led him to father several children and to learn more about in vitro fertilization techniques. Another mission from SpaceLife Origin involved throw sperm and eggs in the space to form an embryo and bring it back to Earth for implantation.