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A Philosophical Inquiry into the Role of
Sexology in Space Life Sciences Research and
Human Factors Considerations for
Extended Spaceflight


Raymond J. Noonan, Ph.D.


Raymond J. Noonan, Doctor of Philosophy, 1998, New York University (NYU)

Major: Human Sexuality

Title of Dissertation: A Philosophical Inquiry into the Role of Sexology in Space Life Sciences Research and Human Factors Considerations for Extended Spaceflight

Directed by: Dr. Randolph L. Mowry



It is apparent, as the International Space Station becomes a reality and more nations become involved with space exploration, that human beings will live and work in space in the future and that extended spaceflight will be a reality. In the space life sciences, research has begun on animal reproduction and development, human interpersonal and cultural issues, and human performance in extreme environments such as the isolated, confined, and hazardous conditions of space. However, at least one aspect of human functioning with seemingly great potential to influence mission success has not in any detail been investigated: sexuality. Numerous questions remain about the connections between physiological and psychosocial aspects of sexual functioning, the impact of and on intimate relationships between and among men and women, and their effects on extended spaceflight mission parameters.

Using the method of philosophical inquiry, the researcher reveals the epistemological beliefs, unstated by NASA, that surround the phenomenological data about human beings in space and the potential impact of human sexuality factors. He argues that sexology must be an integral and focused part of a reconceptualization of space life sciences research and human factors considerations necessary to prepare for extended spaceflight. In addition, based on what scientists know about human beings in both space and analog environments, he conjectures about the mutual interactions of human sexuality factors on space missions. Central to the analysis is the argument that sexuality, like any other natural human function, needs to be studied scientifically so that human beings may function in the most physically, psychologically, and socially effective manner possible. In addition, he argues that sexologists can offer unique perspectives and definitive information for mission planners and policymakers who are concerned with issues related to crew selection and training for astronauts who will participate in long-duration spaceflight.

Of particular significance to the American space program was the introduction of women as astronauts in January 1978. This watershed selection group, which also included members of racial minorities, resulted in the historic flights of the first American woman, Sally Ride, on the space shuttle in June 1983 and the first EVA by an American woman, Kathryn Sullivan, in October 1984. Thus, the duality of the human sexual condition was highlighted and became an issue for which NASA had to plan. This followed years of often-heated debate about the role of women in the space program that followed the flight in June 1963 of Soviet cosmonaut Svetlana Tereshkova, the first woman in space, which had been dismissed as just a Cold-War public-relations ploy. In fact, women had been systematically barred from the U.S. space program, even though it was thought by some in the scientific community that women might be better suited, both physically and psychologically, for the severe requirements of those pioneering spaceflights. Qualified candidates had been tested as early as 1960, but political pressure and sexism prevented the most likely candidate, Jerri Cobb, from even finishing the tests, despite the earlier promising results.

The researcher proposes new terminology, the human sexuality complex, to describe the unity and interconnectedness of the diverse biomedical and psychosocial dimensions involving human sexuality factors. The human sexuality complex is the constellation of factors in which sexual functions, processes, or structures are involved in the biological, psychosocial, emotional, political, and other aspects of the lives of human beings. It is an open dynamic multiple complex systems approach that incorporates the recent application of chaos theory to psychological phenomena. The researcher argues that this perspective avoids the excesses of biological reductionism and of the social constructionism prevalent in contemporary human sexuality discourse. He concludes that sex and gender issues must be viewed from a systems perspective, and that the factors that have influenced our attitudes and policies about sexuality in space are the same as those that confound our approaches to sexuality and gender issues on Earth.


Noonan, R. J. (1998). A philosophical inquiry into the role of sexology in space life sciences research and human factors considerations for extended spaceflight. Doctoral dissertation, New York University (UMI publication number 9832759).


View Dissertation Table of Contents

View Dissertation Preface

View AsMA 2000 Presentation Abstract:

Sexuality and Space: Theoretical Considerations for Extended Spaceflight.” Tuesday, May 16, 2000, 2:00-5:30pm, at New Horizons: The 71st Annual Scientific Meeting of the Aerospace Medical Association (AsMA), May 14-20, 2000, Westin Galleria and Oaks, Houston, Texas (Poster Presentation). This is my first presentation based on the results of my dissertation.

Inquiries Welcome on Teaching, Speaking, and Writing Assignments

You can order bound or unbound copies of the dissertation at UMI’s Dissertation Express.
UMI publication number 9832759



Check Out These Recent Books of Note with Contributions by Dr. Ray Noonan

 Click on the button to buy it!  Click here to buy it!  New! Volume 4 of the International Encyclopedia of Sexuality (IES4), including 17 new countries and places, Robert T. Francoeur, Ph.D., Editor, and Raymond J. Noonan, Ph.D., Associate Editor, published in May 2001 by Continuum International Publishing Group: Includes my chapter on “Outer Space,” which highlights cross-cultural sexuality issues that will have an impact on the human future in space, based partly on my dissertation. For the table of contents or more information, see the IES4 Web site:, including supplemental chapters available only on the Web. Order from!

 Click on the button to buy it!  Click here to buy it! “The Impact of AIDS on Our Perception of Sexuality” and “Sex Surrogates: The Continuing Controversy,” in Robert T. Francoeur’s Sexuality in America: Understanding Our Sexual Values and Behavior, published in August 1998 by Continuum Publishing Co. This new book contains an updated version of the chapter on the United States contained in the International Encyclopedia of Sexuality, Vol. 3 (in the set below). Now available in paperback at!

 Click on the button to buy it!  Click here to buy it! Two articles in Robert T. Francoeur’s International Encyclopedia of Sexuality, published in August 1997 by Continuum Publishing Co.: “The Impact of AIDS on Our Perception of Sexuality” and “Sex Surrogates: The Continuing Controversy” in the United States chapter in volume 3, and additional comments (with Sandra Almeida) in the chapter on Brazil in volume 1. Encourage your library to purchase this three-volume, 1737-page set—the most comprehensive cross-cultural survey of sexuality in 33 countries ever published. Order from

 Click on the button to buy it!  Click here to buy it! “The Psychology of Sex: A Mirror from the Internet,” in Jayne Gackenbach’s Psychology and the Internet: Intrapersonal, Interpersonal and Transpersonal Implications, published by Academic Press in October 1998. Visit the publisher to see the table of contents and more information, then come back here and order it from

 Click on the button to buy it!  Click here to buy it! The third edition of the book, Does Anyone Still Remember When Sex Was Fun? Positive Sexuality in the Age of AIDS, 3rd edition, edited by Peter B. Anderson, Diane de Mauro, & Raymond J. Noonan, published by Kendall/Hunt in September 1996. Click here for more information about the book.

The latest on positive sexuality from the first book to address the issue: For anyone concerned about the increasingly negative ways in which sex is being portrayed in public life—and who wants to do something positive about it.

Now out of print, but available soon in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format! However, used copies might be available at

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