NASA, asrtonauts, masturbation in space, semen, Conan O'Brien, Snopes

The New York Post recently ran an article with the headline “Astronauts should not masturbate in zero gravity, NASA scientist says.” The article quickly went viral, leading people to wonder whether the federal space agency actually had problems with astronauts self pleasuring out in the void.

The only problem? The Post‘s article was based on a misunderstanding.

The Post’s original article cited Smythe Mulikan, a mechanical engineer who works with a NASA contractor in Houston, Texas. Mulikan was interviewed by comedian Conan O’Brien on a recent episode of O’Brien’s podcast, Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend.

According to the Post, Mulikan allegedly said that NASA would never send skin mags or adult videos to the International Space Station (ISS) over fears that “female astronauts could get impregnated by stray fluids.”

“Three female astronauts can be impregnated by the same man on the same session … it finds its way,” Mulikan was quoted by the Post as saying.

However, a closer look by the fact-checkers at Snopes revealed that the Post misattributed the quote to Mulikan when, in fact, the comment came from O’Brien’s comedic co-host Matt Gourley.

In the episode, O’Brien asked Mulikan about the strangest items that NASA had ever sent to the ISS. Then, fellow podcast co-host Sona Movsesian asked if NASA had ever sent adult videos into space.

“No,” Mulikan answered. “None of that.”

O’Brien then wondered aloud how it would work if an ISS astronaut wanted to watch such videos.

Gourley said, “Three female astronauts can be impregnated by the same man from the same session.”

Conan then asked, “Because the semen flies around?”

“Uh-huh,” Gourley said. “And finds its way.”

However, some other countries do send adult films for their astronauts to enjoy while in orbit, according to space historian Peter Pesavento. Pesavento published the claim in a 2001 installment of the scholarly journal Quest: The History of Spaceflight Quarterly.

“When NASA astronaut Norm Thagard became the first American to live aboard Mir in 1995, he was surprised to find the outpost’s video library stocked with a large selection of French and Italian erotic movies,” The Chicago Tribune wrote, summarizing part of Pesavento’s journal article. “Psychologists had instructed the Russian crew to view the films confidentially during the latter stages of their mission.”

In astronaut Michael Collins’ 1989 book Liftoff, he said that a medical adviser encouraged astronauts to masturbate in space in order to prevent prostate problems. In 2020, Vice News said that the Russian space agency sent its cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov “colorful” movies and offered to give him an inflatable sex doll for his 14-month venture into space. Polyakov reportedly turned down the doll, joking that he worried he might become more attracted to it than to human women.

In 2000, several publications cited a French author who said that astronaut couples aboard the 1996 U.S. Columbia spaceflight “tested 10 sexual positions in weightlessness using a variety of aids, including elastic belts and an inflatable tunnel.”

NASA pointed out that the flight actually consisted of seven men, and internet sleuths later discovered that the French author had based his claim on a bogus NASA document.

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