A photograph of the Wentian module. CNSA.

China is Planning to Try and Reproduce Monkeys on Their Space Station

Chinese scientists are planning to try and reproduce monkeys on their Space Station. The experiment will take place in Wentian, the space station's largest module.


Monkeys will be sent to China’s new Tiangong space station so that they can be mated and possibly reproduced in outer space. We could learn a lot from this potentially controversial experiment with implications for future space exploration. Can mammals, including humans, breed successfully outside of the Earth? In a report in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), Zhang Lu, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, who is building supporting equipment for scientific studies on China’s Tiangong space station, stated that the experiment would take place in Wentian. This is the largest module on the space station, which specializes in life science experiments.

The failure rate for mammals

As a follow-up to studying smaller creatures, “research will be conducted on mice and macaques to see if they grow or reproduce in space,” Zhang said in a speech. “Experiments like these will improve our understanding of how organisms adapt to microgravity and other space environments.”. The Japanese rice fish and some simpler organisms have been observed to breed in space. Life forms that are more complex, however, have had difficulty. Russian researchers tested whether geckos could produce offspring in space in 2014. However, all the reptiles died. It has been a total failure rate for mammals so far.


Mice in space

In 1979, scientists in the Soviet Union got mice to mate in space, but none of them gave birth after landing. This means it will be difficult to reproduce monkeys on a space station. There are enormous challenges to interacting with living creatures in space, to begin with. Kehkooi Kee, a professor at the medical school at Tsinghua University, said astronauts “will need to feed them and deal with waste.” Monkeys in panic can be calmed on the ground with toys, music, or simply by mingling with other monkeys. Astronauts will have a new challenge keeping monkeys happy and comfortable in space.

A challenge

Nevertheless, the physics of sex in space is predicted to be challenging even in the event astronauts are successful in creating the right environment and mood for monkeys. According to Adam Watkins, an associate professor at the University of Nottingham specializing in reproductive physiology, it is hard to stay in close contact with each other under zero gravity. As a result of the lower blood pressure astronauts experience while in space, maintaining erections and arousal is more challenging than here on Earth.” China’s new space station is almost fully functional. This means that it isn’t afraid to tackle some big issues, but whether these experiments are successful is uncertain.


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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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