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These Sexy Geckos are Lost in Space

These lizards have been accidentally left to fornicate all alone among the stars

smithsonian.com

Earlier this month five geckos were launched into Earth's orbit. Researchers wanted to know how geckos have sex in zero-g. Yet these frisky geckos have found themselves just a little too alone. As the Washington Post reports, Russian scientists have lost control of the satellite of love.

Ars Technica explains the point of the mission

The lucky lizards—one male and four females—were sent into their 575-kilometer low earth orbit in order to study the effect of microgravity on their reproductive habits, with scientists monitoring their behavior through a video downlink to the ground.

In spite of long-term concern for the geckos—"outlook grim," says the Ars Technica headline—Russia's Institue of Biomedical Problems says they're probably alright for the time being, at least until they run out of food. Currently, "all life support systems are functioning properly despite a communication breakdown with the spacecraft," reports Russian news agency RIA Novosti. "The conditions in the bio capsule are quite comfortable," a representative explained. 

Still, that doesn't mean the lizardnauts are going to have an easy time with their duty. As a researcher explained to Space.com: 

"Sex is very difficult in zero gravity, apparently, because you have no traction and you keep bumping against the walls," biologist Athena Andreadis of the University of Massachusetts Medical.

And it might not even be that fun, says Slate

Would space sex be any good? Recent research suggests it would not. For one thing, zero gravity can induce nausea—a less-than-promising sign for would-be lovers.

Poor sexy space geckos. 

Update: Over the weekend, Russia regained contact with its gecko sex satellite, otherwise known as Foton-M4, according to a statement on its space agency's website. Since Saturday, technicians have communicated with the satellite 17 times, reports the BBC. No word yet on whether the geckos were fazed by the loss of communications. 

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About Shannon Palus

Shannon Palus is a science writer, and a researcher for Popular Science. Her work has appeared in Discover, Slate, Ars Technica, and elsewhere. She is based in Philadelphia.

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