Nasa's Unexplained Files (2012) s06e03 Episode Script

The Black Hole Next Door

Narrator: Huge, hungry, and hard to spot, the invisible predator that could be headed for earth Either it could rip you apart or it could suck you in.
Narrator: A nightmare monster arriving from a world NASA thought was dead Imagine a creature that derived from ceres across space.
What kind of havoc could that cause on this earth? Narrator: And NASA's new telescope, made of a miracle metal never seen on earth before.
Investigators suspect the source is a billionaire with a secret that could change the world.
Teitel: Bob Bigelow refused to say what was in his Nevada bunker, but he didn't deny that he had the pieces of a recovered alien spacecraft.
Narrator: These are "NASA's Unexplained Files".
May 2016 NASA scientists detect a large, mysterious object beyond our solar system.
It's one of NASA's jobs to help defend earth from cosmic threats, but if this thing is what some scientists fear, there can be no defense.
It could literally be the end of the world.
NASA calls the big guns on this one with the hubble space telescope and the Chandra X-ray observatory.
Narrator: The object is so dark, it's almost undetectable, but the readings that do come back point to one terrifying conclusion.
It's a black hole, but it's not like any black hole we've seen before.
It's a hidden circular, just lurking out there in space, totally under the radar.
Narrator: And this planet destroyer could be on the move and headed in our direction.
Super-powerful, super-scary black holes are huge dense masses of matter that deform space-time.
Normally, they are more easily detected.
Filippenko: The gravity is exceptionally strong, so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape.
Anything that falls in this thing is gone forever.
Radebaugh: What allows us to see black holes is that, as other objects come close to black holes, they get torn apart, and they form a disc around the black hole called an accretion disk.
And that gives off a strong X-ray signature that normally tells us, "boom, that's a black hole.
" Narrator: Black holes are powerful beyond anything humans can imagine, and disturbingly, this one, barely detectable, is sitting in our own galaxy, slowly eating its way through nearby solar systems.
What we have here is a black hole that is eating another star and generating x-rays, but it's savoring its companion star.
It's slowly eating it and only giving off the weak signature that suggests there could be a lot more out there that we're not aware of.
Finding this black hole that's so stealthy was kind of a fluke.
Narrator: Worryingly, there may be many other undiscovered black holes, sitting closer to earth than previously thought.
Worse still, black holes are able to move at tremendous speeds, hurtling through space at a mind-bending 5-million miles an hour.
It's possible that there's a black hole moving toward us in space right now.
And until it starts affecting you gravitationally, you won't know that it's there.
Narrator: If and when we are attacked by a black hole, there will be little warning.
Astronomers have calculated that we would not detect its presence outside our solar system until it was just 800 days away from us.
Our first warning might be when it arrives in the oort cloud.
Narrator: The oort cloud is a region of space located on the outskirts of our solar system.
It's like a galactic mine field containing billions of icy comets, many of which are large enough to destroy a planet.
Tomlinson: Any bodies in the oort cloud that were not directly eaten by the black hole would be flung off in different directions, some of them perhaps in towards the inner solar system and earth herself.
Narrator: If the black hole heads this way, for two terrifying years, earth and its neighboring planets will be bombarded with giant comets.
Imagine if there were a rain of comets into the inner solar system colliding with earth and creating enormous damage.
Indeed, mass extinctions can occur for that reason.
Narrator: After moving through the comet fields of the oort cloud and kuiper belt, the black hole will arrive at the gas giants of the outer solar system.
At just three days from the earth, it will feast upon the planet Jupiter and unleash a new horror upon us.
If it actually got really close to Jupiter, or even collided with Jupiter, it could start pulling matter off, giving off hard x-rays, hard gamma rays, giving off all kinds of radiation.
And then that will get re-emitted in jets sometimes highly energetic and collimated jets.
It looks like a light saber from "star wars" that's coming out of the black hole.
Narrator: These giant lightsaber beams, or accretion jets, will shoot out from the black hole, millions of miles through space.
If it slices past us, we'll get incinerated.
Narrator: Even if we escape the accretion jet, just three days after the black hole devours Jupiter, it could reach the earth.
If it got close to earth, that could be a total catastrophe.
Narrator: At first, we will feel the effects of the black hole's gravitational pull like the effect the moon has on the earth, only massively greater.
We could get tremendous tides tidal waves, tsunamis basically, washing over the continents.
Narrator: As the black hole gets closer, the gravitational pull will increase, warping the planet itself, causing its crust to stretch and tear.
There'd be earthquakes.
There would be volcanos on the scale of things we have never seen before.
Narrator: Finally, it will get close enough to feast on our planet.
Ultimately, the atmosphere gets ripped completely off, and the earth just gets pulled apart.
It could devour our entire planet, just gobble it down and there would be no trace of earth whatsoever.
Narrator: Any humans to survive this catastrophe will be pulled at astonishing speed into the black hole.
If you get too close to a black hole or one gets too close to you, there's a couple of things that could happen, and neither one of them are good.
Either it could rip you apart or it could suck you in.
Narrator: As you approach the black hole, its gravitational pull will intensify massively, but also extremely locally, causing your head to accelerate towards the hole quicker than your feet.
You'll get stretched like spaghetti as you're falling in.
Narrator: Any human who miraculously survives will find themselves in the weirdest place in the universe, beyond anything we are capable of imagining.
Mathematicians call it a singularity where all logic as we know it ceases to exist, where existence itself is redefined.
One reason why I think black holes are mind-bendingly strange is that they have this thing called an event horizon, which is you cross it, good luck, you're never going to get out.
And then, you're going to meet a singularity right smack in the center of this black hole, and some of us believe that the very laws of physics itself break down.
The role of space and time actually gets swapped.
What you call time, when you cross the event horizon that becomes space, and then space becomes time.
Narrator: You would exist forever, immortal, but trapped in another dimension.
But even in the event of a black hole entering our solar system, there is hope for the earth and humanity.
The destruction of our sun might paradoxically provide an escape.
The sun's not going to go quietly.
It's pretty big and has a lot of mass itself.
Narrator: In a battle between the sun and a black hole, there can only be one possible outcome.
Eventually, the black hole will win and will devour the sun.
Narrator: But in the havoc caused by the destruction of the sun, the earth could escape its gravitational moorings and be flung from the solar system to begin a lonely journey through the galaxy.
Hadhazy: It'd be a long, slow death for the world as we've known it.
Earth without a sun it's going to be a frozen ball, stuck in space.
Narrator: Coming up Hurled into the void, can we survive by digging down towards the planet core? Hope for humanity might not be entirely lost, even in this extreme situation.
Narrator: And alien monsters at home in Antarctica? These could be massive creatures that have been slowly growing over centuries.
Narrator: Scientists predict that a rogue black hole could rip the earth out of the solar system and shoot us into deep space.
If that happens, earth, ripped from its sun, will freeze, but could our own planet's inner heat keep us alive, even in the face of this cataclysmic disaster? Tomlinson: All hope for humanity might not be lost because the core of the earth will remain molten and warm for many billions of years yet.
Narrator: Although 4-billion years old, the molten iron core of our planet is still at a temperature of 9,800 degrees fahrenheit, as hot as the surface of the sun.
It will take around another 100 billion years to finally cool and solidify.
We would have the potential to be able to dig, dig deep, and dig out cities in large caverns underground.
The atmosphere would actually freeze and fall to the surface as snow.
We would be able to harvest oxygen and nitrogen snow from the surface and bring it back down, so we would have air to breathe.
We could potentially become a subterranean species.
Tomlinson: No matter what, though, the number of humans would plummet dramatically.
There would be no way to sustain 7 or 8-billion people in this fashion.
Narrator: NASA scientists are hoping the newly discovered black hole will pass our solar system, leaving it unscathed.
If not, our only possible future is living deep underground as our world hurtles through the infinite darkness of space perhaps one day to enter another solar system, go into its orbit, and become the planet of an alien star.
March 2015 NASA's dawn spacecraft reaches the end of a 7 1/2-year journey to the asteroid belt, the rocky wasteland between Mars and Jupiter.
NASA is not looking for life.
Its scientists are not expecting to find alien creatures, not until the dawn probe reaches a cryo-volcano on the supposedly dead dwarf planet called ceres.
Ceres is about a third of the entire mass of the asteroid belt.
That's about the size of Texas.
Taylor: Here we have this mini-planet that's just beyond Mars that we know nothing about.
Who knows what kind of secrets the place holds? Narrator: Ceres is more than twice as far from the warmth of the sun as we are on earth.
Temperatures regularly drop below -150 fahrenheit.
Conditions that would freeze all the water in our blood and basically make us explode from the inside out.
Narrator: Temperatures this cold should mean that ceres is a dead world, but when dawn enters orbit The images it sends back to earth stun mission scientists.
We see that most of the landscape is, well, kind of flat, and then all of a sudden, bang, there's this mountain there.
Where did it come from? Just out of nowhere.
Narrator: This solitary peak is the only mountainous structure found anywhere on ceres.
We've given it the name ahuna mons, and it's the loneliest mountain in the solar system.
Narrator: It bears all the hallmarks of a volcano, but it's not spewing lava.
Sori: The bright streaks that we see on the mountain are made of a type of salt.
The salt allows the melting of material to happen at different temperatures, and it's telling us that ice is probably involved.
Narrator: Incredibly, high concentrations of salt inside ceres are melting underground ice, creating a slushy brine that cascades out of ahuna mons.
Instead of a hot volcano, it's a cold volcano, a cryo-volcano.
Narrator: Ceres is meant to be dead, but the discovery of this cryo-volcano changes everything.
There have to be liquid water reservoirs down there inside ceres, maybe even a global ocean.
Oluseyi: What we have here on ceres is slushy water mixed with ice, salt, and organic compounds, and this is what we think are the building blocks for creating life.
This environment so salty, so cold.
Could it possibly harbor life? Well, guess what? It just might.
Taylor: If we're looking for e.
T.
, perhaps ceres is a good place to start.
Narrator: But what might that life look like? We're learned from our own oceans that life can take on any crazy-looking alien form.
Narrator: In the remote depths of earth's oceans are conditions not dissimilar in many ways to those on ceres, a place utterly hostile to humans cold, dark, and home to the strangest creatures on earth, many still unknown to science.
It is a bizarre, fascinating world of creatures in the deep, dark ocean.
Narrator: Organisms that inhabit this underwater realm can grow to immense sizes.
Hovland: They grow almost indefinitely and keep getting bigger, and in that deep, cold environment, there's really no limits on the size of some of these creatures.
We have giant crabs that normally are small, but they can get huge.
I can't reach out wide enough to show you how big these crabs can get.
About 12 feet across.
Narrator: The deep cold slows metabolisms, which allows incredible life-spans.
Some of these animals are 250 to, say, as much as 500 years old.
That is fascinating.
Narrator: Many creatures in this world of total darkness are translucent and glowing, having evolved to generate their own light.
Hovland: Organisms have started producing their own light through bioluminescence.
We have some creatures, and their bodies are gelatinous where you can see right through the tissues to their brain and their eyes.
Narrator: Terrifying alien life-forms glowing, translucent, and huge.
Just one of these creatures is enough to have nightmares about.
Narrator: Coming up Should ceres be quarantined for our protection? Imagine a creature that derived from ceres across space.
What kind of havoc could that cause on this earth? Narrator: And a secretive American billionaire is said to be working alongside the U.
S.
government with technology from another world.
If the Pentagon obtained wreckage of an unknown aerial craft, that would be like the biggest secret in history.
Narrator: Some scientists investigating the dwarf planet ceres believe that its frozen oceans could support life similar to that found in our deep seas monstrous organisms, vast and hungry.
Such a creature has already been imagined by science fiction writers.
H.
p.
Lovecraft described a world-destroying monster, which he called cthulhu.
The cthulhu.
This god of a creature, that bizarre animal with the arms of a giant squid.
Boy: Cthulhu! Cthulhu! Narrator: Nor is it beyond the realm of possibility that a creature from ceres could make it to earth.
In fact, scientists have already observed some telltale signs.
The surface of ceres is heavily pockmarked with craters.
It's entirely possible that at some point in the past, impacts kicked out material from ceres and that material may have traveled to earth.
You need to figure out, could the life have survived the impact that ejected it in the first place and could life survive the long trip through cold, deep space.
The ideal state of transferring life across space is in its most robust form, and that might be a seed or a fertilized egg.
The very beginnings of life, ready to travel.
What if material came from ceres to earth? And what if it had some life? Narrator: There is one part of earth that would seem like home to a creature from ceres Antarctica.
And in particular, subterranean polar lakes like lake vida.
This mysterious lake sits 65 feet beneath the ice.
Saltier than sea water, it's still liquid at -8 degrees fahrenheit.
There's even life in these waters.
The life that might be growing at ceres should be able to thrive in Antarctica because the conditions are so similar.
Narrator: It is surely just a coincidence that there have recently been reports of unexplained events at McMurdo station.
There are all sorts of rumors about things going on at McMurdo where people want to leave, and they won't talk about why.
Narrator: November 2015 NASA is building a new flagship space observatory, hubble's successor the James webb telescope.
But when they reveal the incredible chassis that will hold the telescope together, the world is stunned to learn that it is constructed from a material unknown elsewhere on earth.
The NASA scientists came up with a material that has properties that have never been created before.
They called it unobtainium.
Here's the question, "how did NASA come up with and obtain" this material, unobtainium, "that they're using for the webb telescope?" Narrator: One person who might know the answer is the billionaire and ufo investigator Robert Bigelow.
Robert Bigelow is a very enigmatic, private figure.
He's invested in a lot of call it "extreme science.
" Teitel: Bob Bigelow refused to say what was in his Nevada bunker, but he didn't deny that he had the pieces of a recovered alien spacecraft.
Narrator: Bob Bigelow grew up in Las Vegas.
As a child, he watched in awe as mushroom clouds from atomic tests spiraled into the sky over the Nevada desert testing grounds.
At that moment, he became obsessed with space, and he would acquire a vast fortune to indulge his passion.
Bigelow's property dealings makes him billions, and in 1999, he uses this wealth to form Bigelow aerospace.
Its headquarters a secure and secretive facility in the Nevada desert.
Robert Bigelow is contracted by NASA, and he designs modules for the space station.
Narrator: Bigelow develops an expandable living quarters for NASA.
The first is attached to the international space station in 2016.
It's made from a mysterious material called vectran, which is twice as strong and far more flexible than kevlar.
Baker: There have been rumors that Bigelow's facilities for space research are storing unusual, unexplained alloys that are just not found here on earth.
Narrator: But where might Bigelow have obtained these otherworldly materials? In December 2017, journalists investigating U.
S.
defense department budgets uncover a possible clue.
The front page of "the New York times" carried an article about the a.
A.
T.
I.
P.
Program.
Narrator: A.
a.
t.
i.
p.
Stands for the advanced aerospace threat identification program.
It was a secret program looking at ufos.
The Pentagon allocated $22 million to study the ufo phenomenon.
It was a bombshell.
The Pentagon had never acknowledged the existence of this program.
What did they think they were going to find? Narrator: Attention turns to where the $22 million was spent.
A.
a.
t.
i.
p.
Was a pet project of Nevada senator Harry Reid.
Baker: Harry Reid, he was able to earmark funds for research related to ufos and futuristic technologies and extraterrestrials.
A lot of that funding went to Bob Bigelow.
Narrator: Bigelow is no amateur ufologist.
He has been funded by the government and has worked closely with NASA on some of their most advanced projects.
In may 2017, he makes a shocking statement.
Teitel: Bob Bigelow appeared in an interview and made some incredible claims.
He said that aliens had indeed visited earth.
And he said they're right under our noses.
This is huge.
Somebody with contracts for the government with NASA for him to say, "yes, there is something real, and it deserves to be studied.
" Narrator: Rumors begin to circulate that the government-funded a.
A.
T.
I.
P.
Program is working on the wreckage of a craft, which did not originate on earth.
The U.
S.
government's found something.
They're not telling us.
If the Pentagon obtained wreckage of an unknown aerial craft, that would be like the biggest secret in history.
Narrator: Coming up Has Bob Bigelow given NASA material obtained from another world? I suspect there's a much deeper layer to this onion that we haven't peeled back yet.
Narrator: And a soyuz rocket with an American astronaut onboard malfunctions mid-flight.
In space disasters, sabotage can never be ruled out.
Narrator: Billionaire aerospace tycoon Bob Bigelow says he believes that extraterrestrial life has visited earth.
Now he's building space modules out of mysterious materials with strange properties.
Could they have come from another world? Bob Bigelow has his own sort of area 51 outside of Las Vegas where they claim that they have these metal materials locked away.
Narrator: But Bigelow is not telling.
Private corporations aren't held to the freedom of information act.
They can hold industrial secrets within their company as long as they want to.
That might be a really clever way of keeping these things a secret.
Narrator: Whatever is going on between government agencies and the billionaire space pioneer remains a closely guarded secret.
Gottlieb: That the government is spending money, looking for ufo technology that says something.
It says that it's a possibility.
Taylor: If these stories are even half-true, humanity is about to go on an adventure that we can't even imagine.
Narrator: October 11, 2018 baikonur cosmodrone, Kazakhstan.
Soyuz ms-10 sits fueled and ready on the launch pad.
It's set to be a routine launch for a rocket system that's half a century old, but that's about to change.
There is no safe part of space travel.
It is on the frontier, and it's going to be a challenge.
Narrator: Onboard ms-10 is an American astronaut.
Nick hague was on his first trip to space, something he had spent years training for and looking forward to.
Narrator: His mission to the international space station will take hague away from his wife and two young sons for six months.
Accompanying hague is cosmonaut and mission commander, aleksey ovchinin.
Also married with a young daughter, this is ovchinin's second trip into space.
Two hours before launch, hague and ovchinin board the capsule.
They're on the pad.
The rocket's fueled.
They're hearing the final system checks come over their comms.
They're ready to go.
Woman: Launch command has been issued.
Narrator: Final countdown begins for the 9-minute ride into orbit.
It's a beautiful day.
It's clear sky.
Perfect weather.
Linenger: I always keep my fingers crossed at every launch, and I say a little prayer because things can go wrong like that.
Chiao: The engines start up gently, they build up thrust, and then the vehicle just kind of rises off the pad.
Woman: Lift off of the soyuz ms-10 to the international space station.
When it takes off, you're looking up, up, up as it keeps flying up, and you can feel your jaw dropping.
Narrator: One minute into the flight, the soyuz is traveling at around 1,500 miles per hour and has already reached an altitude of 10 miles.
Inside the capsule, hague is enjoying his first ride.
For the first two minutes of the launch, everything is going perfectly.
Narrator: The craft's four strap-on boosters burn out their liquid fuel and will shortly be fired away from the second stage.
You feel that you know, hear the explosive bolts fire.
Narrator: Then everything goes wrong.
You see a really violent jolt of the spacecraft.
You see this unusual shaking.
You see the crew be jerked around.
You see their arms violently moving back and forth.
The light comes on, and hague looks over at ovchinin, as if to say, "is this okay?" And ovchinin indicates it is not.
Narrator: On board, hague and ovchinin can't work out what's causing the jolting, but cameras on the ground pick up evidence that, whatever it is, it's serious.
You know, you see the cloud of debris and say, "that doesn't look right.
" Mission control realizes that this crew's in danger.
Narrator: Moments after the initial violent jolt, hague reports experiencing a sensation that he should not be feeling.
Suddenly, they're weightless.
This moment of weightlessness is way too early for them to have reached orbit.
If you're feeling that, then you would immediately know that the thrust had stopped.
Narrator: The unexplained fault has caused the engines to shut down, and now the rocket is falling back to earth.
There is a message going "booster problem" through the intercom system.
Something critical has gone wrong.
Narrator: The crippled soyuz rocket is plummeting in a rapid, uncontrolled descent from a height of 58 miles, and now hague and ovchinin are facing a desperate situation.
There's that realization that a.
, I'm not going into space, and b.
, I might not survive this.
Narrator: The damaged soyuz contains tens of thousands of gallons of kerosene and liquid oxygen.
The two men in the capsule find themselves strapped to what is essentially a massive bomb.
It could blow up.
It could fire.
Who knows what could happen? Narrator: There's only microseconds to get hague and ovchinin away from a fiery death.
You just pray that the escape system works and that we don't lose the lives of our fellow cosmonauts and astronauts.
Narrator: An automatic detonation blasts the capsule away from the crippled rocket.
Orwoll: The occupants of the capsule are still in danger.
They're still not in command of the situation.
The parachutes have to open.
The retrorockets have to fire just before they land.
If any one of those things doesn't work properly, they won't survive.
Narrator: Coming up Suspicions mount about the rocket's catastrophic failure.
Is it a manufacturing error? Could it be an assembly problem? Is it sabotage? Narrator: And human monsters in space.
To procreate in space, homo sapiens is going to have to morph into a completely different species.
Narrator: American astronaut Nick hague is on his first ride into space on board a Russian soyuz rocket.
A catastrophic failure wrecks the rocket and leaves hague and his cosmonaut comrade fighting to survive on board their escape capsule.
Now they must endure a ballistic re-entry through the atmosphere.
With ballistic re-entry, you go on a steeper trajectory, shorter trajectory.
Chiao: It's kind of the last-ditch mode of entry.
You're just coming through the atmosphere like a Cannon ball.
Narrator: This rapid descent is having a huge impact on the men.
Granade: They're going to be experiencing seven times the force of gravity.
At seven gs, breathing is difficult.
Lifting your arm is very, very difficult.
You can break bones, you can detach retinas at those kinds of gravities.
Narrator: They must battle against these forces as they struggle to gain control of the capsule.
One of their big concerns now is making sure that the capsule stays in the right orientation.
It can't tumble, it can't be sideways or the parachutes won't deploy properly.
There are no more safeguards.
They're gonna come smashing down and crash into the earth and get pulverized.
Narrator: Cosmonaut Vladimir komarov landed in this way on April 23, 1967, on board soyuz 1.
On that mission, the parachute failed to deploy as the cosmonaut returned from orbit.
He smashed full-tilt into the ground.
Narrator: The force of the impact flattened the soyuz capsule to just 27 inches in height, causing the solid fuel rockets at its base to explode, leaving behind nothing but molten wreckage.
The largest piece they found of his body was his heel bone.
Narrator: Hague and ovchinin are desperate to escape such a horrific end, but they have no idea if their parachute has been damaged by the smashup.
All they can do is wait and hope.
Mission control watches helplessly as the plummeting capsule reaches a critical point in its descent.
At this point, the capsule has gone over the horizon, and they've lost line of sight communications.
They don't know where the capsule is, they don't know what happened to the crew.
If the crew is incapacitated or if the spacecraft has been badly damaged and can't operate anymore, then the crew's gonna be lost.
Narrator: Hague and ovchinin reach the moment of truth.
There's a big bang, explosive bolts, and a parachute comes out.
The spacecraft tumbles around, and you're already deconditioned and dizzy, and so now you're even more dizzy.
Narrator: The parachute slows the descent of the capsule, but the crew are not home and safe yet.
That landing is a controlled crash even under the best circumstances.
Will they be coming down in Kazakhstan on the steppes, or are they going to land someplace entirely unsafe? Narrator: 19 minutes and 49 seconds after liftoff, ms-10 impacts the earth around 250 miles away from the launch site.
The status of hague and ovchinin is unknown.
Zak: A search and rescue team gets to the landing site really quickly, they find the capsule on its side.
To great relief of everybody involved, they communicate really quickly to mission control that everybody is alive.
Hague was supposed to go to space that day, but instead, there he was, on the ground, breathing a sigh of relief.
Being able to finally hold my wife in my arms and give her a hug was just enormous and made me feel like, "okay, yeah, I'm finally back and safe.
" As Russians, we often say in cases like this, "we had a successful test of the launch escape system.
" Narrator: In November 2018, the Russian investigation issues its report.
It reveals that the launch failure was caused by a censor that had become mysteriously damaged while the rocket sat on the launchpad.
Is it a manufacturing error? Could it be an assembly problem? Is it sabotage? In space disasters, sabotage can never be ruled out.
Narrator: Every rocket launch is a journey into the unknown, where unforeseen dangers lie in wait.
Everybody realizes what we do is difficult and that there's risk involved, and it's important to understand that it's worth the risk.
What we're doing for human exploration, it's for the benefit of all, and it's important that we continue to make those steps.
Narrator: September 1992 NASA astronauts jan Davis and Mark Lee are on the space shuttle endeavour.
They are the first married couple in space.
Brensberger: The tabloids were all over this news.
They wanted to know what happened while they were up there.
I think a married couple, if they were up in space together by themselves why not try and join the 250-mile high club? Narrator: Just as in the movie "alien", if Davis does get pregnant, she could discover that she is carrying something terrifying that looks barely human.
Brensberger: As the baby's trying to grow in space, it's gonna have major mutations and alterations.
Narrator: Mutant monsters in space a nightmare, perhaps, but one that may come true.
Somewhere in the future, we will have babies conceived, they will develop, and they will grow out and away from earth.
It will happen.
The question is not "if", the question is "when".
Narrator: NASA scientists believe that the future of humankind must be to colonize other worlds, but that means we will need to start having children born beyond the earth.
Brensberger: If we ever plan on exploring deep space, we have to get over this problem of procreating in space first.
Narrator: Many ask if any of our astronauts have already taken a giant leap for humanity.
Scott: The space shuttle was a very small vehicle, and there's essentially no privacy at all.
Now, six people living in a shuttle is like six people living in a camper a winnebago.
Narrator: But the international space station is over 10 times bigger than the shuttle.
There is actually a pregnancy test on board the I.
S.
S.
Kowal: The official line is that no one has had sex in space, but the fact that there is so much official notice about, "officially, this has never happened," makes me wonder, "how official is that?" Narrator: Getting it on amongst the stars won't be without its challenges.
It's tough enough on a water bed.
Now try to imagine it in a zero-gravity environment.
Sex in space would probably be more awkward than awesome.
Narrator: The first hurtle is Newton's third law of motion.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
That means in zero gravity, when two bodies come together forcefully, they're going to spring apart with the same amount of force.
You have to try to find a way for the two people to actually latch on to one another.
Scott: People are very innovative.
If you put them in the right situation long enough, they find a way to make it happen.
Narrator: But developmental biologists have found the conditions of space have a terrible impact on growing fetuses.
NASA's actually been running experiments on different type of animal species such as birds and geckos and also rats to see what the embryonic development is actually like in space.
The results are not promising.
Clark: If you look at a tadpole it develops.
Instead of a nice, linear shape to it, its head touches its tail, and it can only swim around in a circle.
It is permanent, and the animal won't survive.
Narrator: Every attempt NASA has made to grow vertebrate organisms in microgravity has produced mutations.
You've got everything from varying spinal deformities to bones not closing.
So, human gestation in space, that's a very questionable thing.
Narrator: But whatever the risks, humans can never explore deep space without reproducing there.
The birthday of the first star child is coming.
You can imagine what it's going to be like when the first baby is born in space.
It's gonna be a monumental event, and we don't know what the consequences will be.
Should we seriously think about having babies in space, given how much we don't know? Narrator: Biology dictates that star children will be different genetically to their earthbound ancestors.
We evolved as a species having being pulled down to the earth.
So when you're in space, you don't have that force pulling against you, and it can lead to really poor development of the body.
If we evolved in a different gravity, the shape of our human body will be different.
Maybe all our extremities will evolve as pinchers of sorts, something that can reach, touch, grab, move.
We don't need a walking foot.
We don't need the musculature that works against gravity.
They're probably going to be elongated, somewhat.
They're probably gonna have more fragile bones.
Their circulatory system won't have to work as hard to pump blood around.
Narrator: Even eyes will change, adapted to very different kinds of light and bombardment by cosmic radiation.
There's every reason to believe that our progeny will enter into space.
But if we meet them in the far distant future, they'll look nothing like us.
Narrator: Tragically, the evolution of space humans might well leave them physically incapable of ever returning to earth.
They would be strangers in their own world.
If they came back to an earth-normal environment, they would have heart difficulties, they would have fragile bone syndrome.
Hovland: These star children have changed so much that they've become veritable exiles.
They simply wouldn't welcome the gravity and the environment that is earth.
Narrator: Our cosmic children will look at the beauty of earth from afar, condemned by their strange biology to find a new home elsewhere.
It could be a sad and lonely fate for the first star children.