First human to do anything significant makes it to the news. Moreover, if this is as newsworthy as being first to give birth on Mars, this would appear in headlines around the world and be mentioned in history books for both Earth and Mars kids.
While we still do not know, who will be that child and their parents (unless you already have a secret plan to be the first mother or father of a Martian-born child), the movie The Space Between Us sparked the discussion. This film depicts a story of a boy who, after being born on Mars as the first human being, travels to Earth to meet his father.
Interestingly, the issue which can go unnoticed, is what kind of child, both physically and mentally, such real-life Martian might become. Recently the American tech magazine, The Wired, published a short interview with Dorit Donoviel, deputy chief scientist at Baylor’s National Space Biomedical Research Institute. Therefore, if you indeed consider raising your offspring on Mars, here are a few tips based on science.
Practice safe sex until you set foot on Mars
In the movie, the mother learns she is pregnant half-way through the journey to Mars. As Donoviel explains, no gravity may create a huge challenge for a fetus. The development of an embryo may not happen as expected. As she explains in more details: Gravity is important for establishing some kind of biomolecular gradient, which is important for determining which part of the embryo is which.
The problem is not only limited to a spacecraft. Mars’ gravity is only a third of Earth’s. Donoviel is optimistic though, however prefers to speak in probability terms. Carrying to term on Mars is much more likely than in zero gravity or on the moon. For the record the moon’s gravity is only a sixth of Earth’s.
In practical terms that would call for a safe sex at least 9 months before the journey and then another 6 to 12 months on the way to Mars. By the way, can you imagine having sex in zero gravity environment, such as in a space shuttle?
Although there are many speculations, we never heard of any confirmed and official account of astronauts having sex in space. Maybe they are just shy or perhaps they tried and… Well, research suggests they would face a few biological consequences, among others. For example, perspiration in a space shuttle is more intense, so if you prefer hot and wet sex, for example in sauna, this one may be quite similar. However, in sauna you will not be surrounded by small droplets of sweat floating around and touching you…
Another challenge may be lower blood pressure experienced in space, which means reduced blood flow, which then leads to a very probable problem with men’s erection. And since the Clinton-Lewinski affair, we know that except for an intercourse, no other form of human body contact can be called sex, we can argue whether sex is even possible in space.
If you are interested in that topic, a more in-depth analysis can be find in Slate’s article.
Forget to come back with your Martian-born kid to Earth ever again
This is a sad news, but without any external support, any child born and grown up on Mars would pass out in seconds on planet Earth. Why is it so? Again, it is related to lower gravity. Lower gravity would mean that the heart would not need to grow as large to circulate blood throughout the body. Any move, both external and within our system, would simply be much easier, so by the rules of physics, there is no need for much force. It makes sense, doesn’t it? However, back on Earth, higher gravity would pull all fluids, including blood, quickly away from the person’s head. And this directly would cause a Martian-born kid to pass out.
Even if by some miracle this does not happen, the child would need to move around using much weaker bones and muscles. Perhaps you remember videos or photos of astronauts which cannot walk after landing. This is because they did not use their muscles much in zero gravity for months, but they can come back to their previous shape within some reasonable time. However, a child who’d grow up on Mars would never develop muscles and bones of their peers on Earth. This may mean that such a child would go out of breath very easily, would not be able to perform Earth-age-appropriate exercises and of course could easily break a bone only by stumbling and falling on the ground.
Prepare to have a weird child
Let’s say you are not discouraged by the physical factors and are ready to become the first human to have a baby on Mars. I bet the entire world would hold their breath and watch the experiment for long, long time before anyone would decide to join you in having kids on Mars too. Unless you would soon make a decision to have a second child. But if you also decided to wait and see, consider this:
Your little one would have no peer socialization. The only other humans around them would be adults.
He or she would be able to participate in the culture to a very limited degree. That reminds me of a great movie Room, in which a boy was born and stayed in one room for 5 years with his mom. After all these years he finds out, that the room is not the entire world. Same may happen on Mars. The child would accept what they will find there as the entire world. The issue is, there will not be much there…
Last but not least, dealing with very few people would definitely influence the kid’s social skills. Think also about those people in the station on Mars, who would be around and naturally connect with your child. Would they be happy, balanced people by Earth standards to be good caregivers and educators? I am not sure about it.
Giving the first birth on Mars will definitely win you a place in the history of two planets in our Solar system. For that reason you may want it for yourself. And yet, would you want it for your child too?