In Depth

SpaceX sends human sperm to the International Space Station

Scientists to examine how samples react in low gravity to see if conception could happen in space

SpaceX launched one of its Falcon 9 rockets into orbit on an unusual mission to the International Space Station (ISS) for Nasa last night.

According to the  London Evening Standard, the rocket is carrying frozen samples of human and bull sperm so scientists on the space station can examine how they react in low gravity. 

The researchers will thaw out the samples and combine them with “chemical mixture that actives the semen’s cells”, the newspaper adds. 

Scientists have already examined the effects of low gravity on sea urchin and rodent sperm, says Space

These experiments revealed “the lack of gravity in space activated the sperm more quickly”, The Register reports, although it took significantly longer for the samples to react with an egg than it would on Earth. 

Now scientists want to evaluate whether the results can be replicated on larger mammals, the website says, which could indicate whether it’s possible to conceive in space.

SpaceX also launched a satellite capable of clearing up pieces of old spacecraft orbiting the Earth. 

The experimental RemoveDEBRIS system, developed by the University of Surrey Space Centre, features a large net designed to catch redundant satellites and drag them out of orbit, Time reports. 

Space debris floating in Earth’s lower orbit is “a serious problem”, the magazine adds, saying there are more than 500,000 pieces of “defunct satellites” and “rocket boosters” currently orbiting Earth. 

The system will be assembled by astronauts on the ISS and deployed into space, although there’s no word yet on when it will be deployed.

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