Whatever the trigger, preserving healthy eggs and sperm before a long-duration flight is among the top recommendations researchers have for astronauts contemplating long-duration stays aboard the International Space Station or future deep space missions.
Doctors are recommending that female astronauts who are going to be serving on the space station for a long period of time harvest and cryo-preserve ovarian biopsies or oocytes, and that males preserve semen, Tash said.
"If you preserve any of those eggs or sperm, you know that it won't have suffered any radiation damage if you collect it before a long mission," Tash said.
Until recently, most astronauts serving aboard the space station were beyond their family planning years, a natural consequence of the amount of time and seniority it took to be assigned a long-duration flight.
With the retirement of the space shuttle, however, younger astronauts who many not be finished or even started having children are being assigned station flights that last six months. NASA also plans to begin year-long increments.