Space: the final frontier, the gateway to other worlds and civilizations, a constant source of wonder and speculation.
By the way, on that note, what's it like to poop and have sex up there, anyway? (If you're wondering what your poop says about your health, though, we have the answer.)
These queries, paramount in their importance to the scientific pursuits of mankind, were recently asked by Gizmodo reporters Ryan F. Mandelbaum and Rae Paoletta during their interview with astronaut Mike Massimino, who has taken two trips to space to help fix the Hubble Space Telescope.
Given all that Massimino has probably seen and done during his time above the Earth, Mandelbaum and Paoletta did what any self-respecting journalist would with an opportunity like this: They asked him the grossest and silliest questions that we've all secretly wanted to know the answers to. (We know a thing or two about uncomfortable sex questions.)
To the question of whether sex would be dangerous in space, Massimino said this, "There are more dangerous things you can do in space than that," but added that the question of whether a child could be created in space is still blurry.
"If you’re looking for sex not to procreate but just to experience it, that’s one thing, but how would a fetus develop in zero gravity?" he said. "It probably wouldn’t go very well."
So, this begs the question: Is space the final frontier, or is a full-term pregnancy in space the final frontier? The future of our species may depend on the answer.
After that, Mandelbaum chimed in to ask Massimino about our bowel movements up there: "Where does all the poop go?" he wondered aloud.
Massimino gamely provided a very detailed and thorough breakdown of what happens to your bodily waste in space: "The poop is compacted [in the space shuttle toilet] and brought to Earth. On the space station, you poop into a can with a plastic liner, then tie up the bag, push it to the bottom and put a clean bag in for then next guy. When the toilet can gets filled up you take the seat off of it and cap it. It’s like a big metal container more or less. Then you put it into a resupply vehicle. Some of the resupply vehicles that come up with supplies get emptied out and garbage goes in there including the cans of poop. [The resupply vehicle] deploys the hatch and [the poop] burns up on reentry."
Kudos to Massimino for playing along with the questions and answering them in earnest. Thankfully, he was also hit with one that reaffirmed our excitement for space exploration. When asked if "space is good," he said, "Yes. It’s extraordinary. It’s magical, it’s the most beautiful thing you’ll ever see."