They put the first man in space, then the first tourist. Now the Russians could make one wealthy couple the first members of the 240-mile-high club.
In its latest attempt to develop space tourism, Russia is offering a pair of newlyweds the chance to swap Venice or Paris for a cosmic honeymoon on board the international space station.
In his book Living in Space, G. Harry Stine, a NASA technician who died in 1997, wrote that agency staff at the Marshall Space Flight Centre in Huntsville, Alabama, had used a buoyancy tank that simulated low-gravity conditions to test the possibilities of weightless sex.
“It was possible but difficult,” he wrote, “and was made easier when a third person assisted by holding one of the others in place.”
Pierre Kohler, a French scientific writer, claimed in another book that NASA had tested 20 positions by computer simulation and then arranged for two people to try the best 10 in zero gravity.
Only four were possible to reach without “mechanical assistance”, according to Kohler. An elastic belt and an inflatable tunnel, like an open-ended sleeping bag, were needed for the other six.
“One of the principal findings was that the classic so-called missionary position, which is so easy on earth when gravity pushes one downwards, is simply not possible,” he wrote.