Scientists are always exploring new ways to support life in space and the latest discovery is that mammal reproduction can take place in space.
Researchers from Japan examined the possibility of breeding animals for food in space, through artificial insemination.
They sent freeze-dried mice sperm to the International Space Station, where it was stored for 288 days. The team also stored the same sperm at the same temperature on earth, for the same amount of time.
The space samples were then returned to earth where they exhibited more fragmented DNA, than sperm stored on earth, due to high levels of radiation. When the scientists injected the space sperm into fresh mouse eggs that were transferred into surrogate mothers, the females gave birth to normal pups.
The damage on sperms stored in space was repaired by the egg during embryo development and did not impair birth rate or cause defects in the offspring.
The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science and apart from proving that animals could be bred for food in space, the study also proved that reproduction can take place in space.
This raises the possibility of babies being born in space in future. However, human reproduction in space would require creation of radiation-proof facilities that can protect gametes and the pregnant mother from (cosmic) radiation exposure.