Washington: With talk of space tourism and even trips to Mars, NASA has launched human sperm to the International Space Station (ISS) to test what happens when it gets exposed to zero-gravity environment.
The mission, dubbed Micro-11, technically began on April 1, when NASA sent frozen human and bull sperm on board a Falcon 9 rocket to the ISS, the Inverse reported late on Thursday.
The astronauts aboard the ISS will thaw and chemically activate the samples to prepare them for union with an egg.
Using video recording they will track the sperm movements and send them back to Earth for further analysis.
"Based on previous experiments, it seems the lack of gravity facilitates sperm mobility," Fathi Karouia, lead scientist for NASA's space biology project, was quoted as saying to Inverse.
"This is in line with other investigations on different model organisms which have shown that microgravity conditions trigger faster cell regeneration.
"This flight project is the first to apply proven analytical methods to assess the fertility of human and bovine sperm in spaceflight," Karouia said.
The experiment could also offer new insights into the ways long-duration spaceflight will influence human reproduction.
Though this is not the first time sperm has been sent into space for testing, it could offer new insights into the ways long-duration spaceflight will influence human reproduction.
"This research is looking at early fundamental microgravity science," the report said.
Previously several species, including frogs, salamanders, sea urchins, jellyfish, snails, medaka fish, nematode (roundworm, known as Caenorhabditis elegans), and other aquatic invertebrate animals, have successfully undergone breeding in space.
Moroever, aquatic invertebrates like amphipods, gastropods (pond snails), ostracods and daphnia (water flea) produced their offspring or repeated their life-cycles under microgravity during four months in space, the report said.