A bit gimmicky?
Can't help feeling it would have been easier to irradiate the sperm down here on Earth.
Japanese scientists say reproducing in space could be possible one day, after preserved mouse spermatozoa kept on the International Space Station resulted in healthy offspring. “If humans ever start to live permanently in space, assisted reproductive technology using preserved spermatozoa will be important for producing …
Then you'd have some irradiated sperm. That's rather pointless.
You'd be missing things like the microgravity causing a redistribution of CNS fluid, causing pressure on the eyes, causing astronauts to have vision problems, which sometimes doesn't go away when they land.
Are second and third order effects like that important? Are there effects we don't know about? Does it affect things like sperm? We don't know. So we did an experiment.
Good thing we have people like you to check up on us.
The opening half-dozen paragraphs of the article state quite clearly that the purpose of the study was not these second or third order effects, but rather the irradiation that I mentioned. Even if it hadn't been, how would you test a mouse for a mild impairment to some as-yet-unidentified aspect of its general health? It's not like you can give them a questionnaire when they grow up.
It is universally accepted (and fairly easy to argue with a back-of-the-envelope calculation) that gravity just isn't very important for small creatures and is vanishingly unimportant on the scale of a developing embryo. Whilst it is nice to check universally accepted wisdom from time to time, it seems rather poor value for money to test this one in this particular way. I genuinely hope that this work has either been grossly mis-reported (which is quite common and not necessarily the fault of the last reporter in the chain) or was not funded from the public purse.
If I might add two further points...
Embryos are fully immersed in liquid and bouyancy means that the net effect of gravitation on the developing embryo is zero even for an elephant on Earth.
The likely importance of radiation on a developing embryo is so large that even if the mice had emerged hideously deformed, we'd assume that it was the radiation rather than the micro-gravity. We're therefore in the situation where we learn nothing about the effects of micro-gravity regardless of the result of the experiment.
You need to read Stanislav Lem.
The subject of humans raised on an old arkship by robots is covered in one of the shorts from the Navigator Pirks chronicles. In that short the humans which were supposed to raise the kids died as a result of a radiation storm. The embryos were protected enough to survive, but were raised by the robot assistants after that. Many decades later instead of their target planet they orbit Earth.
The rest - you can pick it in the actual story. It is quite funny (like most of Pirks).
Someone, somewhere has a job in the Japanese space industry with an interesting name (astro-biologist or something). Their parents are extremely proud, their friends think it must be a cool job, their kids all excitedly tell their mates that they have a parent that does "space stuff" but in reality, they've had to go to work and wank a mouse.
Microgravity is less of a problem. Previous studies involving other animals such as sea urchins, fish, amphibians and birds have concluded that it doesn’t hamper reproduction. But performing the same kind of trials with mammals is trickier.
I would expect that human copulation in zero gravity could be quite, er, challenging. At the same time I would have thought that finding volunteers to try using that "diving aircraft" wouldn't be too hard.
Could give a whole new meaning to the term "cockpit".
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