Having sex and getting pregnant in the space is just not a good idea, thanks to serious radiation hazards, scientists have said.
According to three scientists, astronauts sent to colonize Mars would be well advised to avoid getting pregnant en route to the Red Planet.
High-energy particles bombarding the ship would almost certainly sterilize any female fetus conceived in deep space, making it that much more difficult to establish a successful Mars colony once the crew lands.
"The present shielding capabilities would probably preclude having a pregnancy transited to Mars," Fox News quoted radiation biophysicist Tore Straume of NASA as saying.
The DNA that guides development of a fertilized embryo and the functioning of all the cells in the body is easily damaged by the kind of radiation that would bombard astronauts on a Mars voyage and ultimately on the planet itself.
One hazard comes from solar flares, which spew energetic protons across the solar system. Although the timing and intensity of such outbursts is difficult to predict in advance, these particles would be relatively easy to shield against, Straume told Space.com.
Posing a tougher problem would be radiation streaming in from outside the solar system.
So-called galactic cosmic rays consist largely of very high-energy protons, but they also include charged atomic nuclei running up the periodic table all the way to iron, which is quite heavy, atomically speaking.
Such charged particles can blow apart biological molecules such as DNA and would easily rip through the aluminum shielding of a spacecraft traveling through interplanetary space.
"One would have to be very protective of those cells during gestation, during pregnancy, to make sure that the female didn''t become sterile so they could continue the colony," said Straume.
A child conceived in space would also be likely to suffer from other problems as well.
"This is an issue that really needs to be resolved if we ever plan to have a colony on Mars," added Straume.
The findings have been published in the Journal of Cosmology.