A Dutch company wants to deliver babies in space – BFM Business

The startup Spaceborn United is working on reproduction and possible births in the partial gravity environment on Mars. A first launch with mouse cells is planned for the end of next year, before a launch with the aim of producing a human embryo in “five or six years”.

Making babies in space. The idea may seem crazy. However, the reasons that might lead Earthlings to leave their planet are not entirely unrealistic. Climate crisis, meteorite impact… Humanity may be forced to settle on another planet. And in this hypothesis it would have to be able to reproduce in space. In any case, this is the theory advocated by Dutch entrepreneur Egbert Edelbroek, founder and CEO of Spaceborn United, a start-up that deals with reproduction and possible births in the partial gravity environment on Mars.

The challenges are galactic. The first sexual relationships in space seem utopian, but the ambitious Dutchman is convinced that he will give birth to a human being conceived in space within his lifetime.

“If you want to have human colonies (…) outside the Earth and they want to be truly independent, you also have to face the challenge of reproduction,” he believes.

Humanity must therefore “become a multiplanetary species,” he emphasizes to AFP.

“A space station for your cells”

Given the enormous challenges of possible sexual relationships in space, the biggest of which is the lack of gravity that would separate couples, Spaceborn United primarily aims to create an embryo in space.

The company is working on breeding mice first for ethical reasons before considering shipping human sperm and eggs far from Earth. With this in mind, she created a disk that mixes the cells together.

It’s like a “space station for your cells,” summarizes Aqeel Shamsul, CEO of the British company Frontier Space Technologies, which is working with Spaceborn on the project.

The embryo is then cryogenically frozen to halt its development and ensure safe return under difficult conditions, including shock and gravity.

A launch with mouse cells is planned for the end of next year, and the first launch to produce a human embryo will take at least “five to six years,” according to Egbert Edelbroek.

In late October, Japanese scientists announced that they had sent frozen mouse embryos to the International Space Station (ISS) before culturing them. Their “normal” development on board the ISS is an important first step.

An ethical challenge

But it is only a small step, and ethically it will be a giant leap before such an embryo can be implanted back into a woman and a first child conceived in space is born.

“It is a sensitive topic. Ultimately, you are exposing vulnerable human cells, human embryos, to the dangers of space (…) for which embryos were never designed,” said Egbert Edelbroek.

The sensitivity of these issues is one reason space reproduction research has generally been left to private companies rather than NASA, he says.

Egbert Edelbroek, who believes that his company is the only one aiming to develop a human embryo in space, hopes that humanity will achieve natural birth in space, even if he admits that the road is “long.”

Bodily fluids pulled downward on Earth would be pulled upward in a low-gravity environment, presenting several challenges.

Risks associated with the growth of space tourism

While adult bodies can handle some differences, a growing fetus is more “vulnerable.” “So you first have to create the perfect environment,” he explains.

The current development of space tourism should also be taken into account: travelers of a new type may want to be the first to design in space, the entrepreneur foresees, raising awareness of the risks in the industry.

Spaceborn’s research – which replicates the process of in vitro fertilization in space – also helps people on Earth get pregnant, according to its executive director.

He originally hoped that a baby could be conceived in space within a few years, but the scale of the challenges forced him to scale back his ambitions.

“We went from extremely ambitious to just very ambitious,” he explained.

But the 48-year-old remains convinced that a baby will be born in space during his lifetime: “I assume it will live to be at least 100 years old. So that should give us enough decades to get there.”

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