Going to space and giving birth are both difficult things to do for separate reasons.
But one expert believes they can be combined in the near future. In fact, he believes the first baby could be born in space within just 12 years.
Dr Egbert Edelbroek, founder and chief executive of SpaceBorn United, said the company is designing missions where pregnant women can give birth in orbit.
The aim is not currently for the whole pregnancy to take place in space, but instead a 24- to 36-hour mission for the labour.
Speaking at the first Space and Science Congress of Asgardia the Space Nation in Darmstadt, Germany, Dr Edelbroek said he thought this would happen by 2031.
‘This is only possible, for now, in Lower Earth Orbit (LEO), and it is only possible thanks to a very thorough selection procedure,’ he said. The congress heard some of the requirements for participant expectant mothers, and medical staff.
These would include having experience of two flawless previous deliveries, and a high natural radiation resistance.
Dr Edelbroek said: ‘You can induce the labour process like they do in IVF clinics on a daily basis. Planning is, of course, an issue – it is hard to plan a natural process like this if there is something wrong with the weather, or a delay with the launch.
‘We could never work with just one pregnant woman. We would have maybe 30 participants and they could step out at any moment. But the experts that we work with, they believe, and I believe, that this is possible at a lower risk level than an average Western-style delivery on Earth.
‘That would be the only way to make this possible.’
He added that, while he thought this was possible, he was not planning for it, with the company’s work focusing on embryo development and conception in space.
SpaceBorn Utd researches conditions for human reproduction in space, and is focused on Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART). Asked about the 12-year estimate, Dr Edelbroek said it would depend on funding and developments in the space tourism sector.
‘If that sector is going to accelerate in the way it’s doing right now, there will be markets for very wealthy people who aren’t prepared to do three months’ military training, happy to go as they are,’ he said.
‘And there will be spacecraft that are very comfortable for those people. It depends on the risk you are willing to take.’