When NASA and SpaceX launched human sperm into space on April 1, it may have sounded a little like a science fiction story. And that’s because four decades ago, it was. Famed author Kurt Vonnegut accidentally predicted the weird launching of sperm into space this year in his 1972 short story “The Big Space Fuck.”
Commissioned in by Harlan Ellison for the 1972 science fiction anthology Again, Dangerous Visions and later republished in Vonnegut’s 1981 memoir Palm Sunday, “The Big Space Fuck” is specifically about sperm being shot into space. In this story, the human race is so desperate to repopulate their species on another planet, that the government decides to shoot a rocket filled with sperm at the Andromeda galaxy. In the story, this has the effect of the phrase “Fuck you, Andromeda!” to be a kind of patriotic and noble thing to say. The story is obviously a joke, but the fact that human sperm has found its way into space several times is a little eerie.
In fairness, the purpose of the Micro-11 mission is decidedly less desperate than what Vonnegut predicted in “The Big Space Fuck.” Dr. Fathi Karouia told Inverse that the purpose of the experiments is to “apply proven analytical methods to assess the fertility of human and bovine sperm in spaceflight.”
In Vonnegut’s “The Big Space Fuck,” the purpose of the space sperm is kind of like a reverse version of panspermia; the notion that life on Earth was seeded from elsewhere in the universe. In aim of the characters in this Vonnegut story is to spread human life — via sperm — to another galaxy.
Obviously, studying how human (or animal) sperm works in space is worthwhile. If our future generations are living on other planets — like TRAPPIST-1 — centuries from now, some kind of bedrock of figuring out how reproduction works outside of our planet is totally essential.
So, who knows? If the experiments of Mirco-11 are successful, then Vonnegut’s satirical science fiction may, at least spiritually, become science fact. After all, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to say “fuck you TRAPPIST-1!” and have it be a good thing?