Last month Chinese scientists reported that they were successfully able to grow mouse embryos in space. Thousands of embryos were sent into orbit on a Chinese satellite. Photos taken 80 hours later revealed that the embryos had developed at a natural pace into blastocysts, and could be implanted in a womb.
This is the first time mammalian embryos have successfully developed in space and suggests that this process could be viable for other mammals, including humans. A crucial stage of reproduction is early embryo development and this experiment shows that it is possible for embryos to flourish and grow even under the very different conditions encountered in space.
This research sheds light on the larger issue of whether or not humans can reproduce and survive for multiple generations in space. It is also related to the question of whether space travel will impact human fertility and child development.
Organizations such as Mars One hope to send people to live on Mars as soon as 2022. To do so, the issues of human survival, health, and reproduction in space will need to be addressed. This is necessary to make life in space viable and may offer clues to improving human survival here on Earth.
What implications will successful mammalian reproduction in space have on space exploration and travel?