Space Café Podcast

Dr Egbert Edelbroek - Stellar Beginnings: Unveiling the Secrets of procreation in space with SpaceBorn United's CEO

January 30, 2024 Markus Mooslechner, Dr Egbert Edelbroek Episode 99
Dr Egbert Edelbroek - Stellar Beginnings: Unveiling the Secrets of procreation in space with SpaceBorn United's CEO
Space Café Podcast
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Space Café Podcast
Dr Egbert Edelbroek - Stellar Beginnings: Unveiling the Secrets of procreation in space with SpaceBorn United's CEO
Jan 30, 2024 Episode 99
Markus Mooslechner, Dr Egbert Edelbroek

SpaceWatch.Global is pleased to present: The Space Café Podcast #99:  Stellar Beginnings: Unveiling the Secrets of procreation in space with SpaceBorn United's Egbert Edelbroek 

Episode 099 features special guests:  Dr Egbert Edelbroek

Join Markus in an out-of-this-world episode of the Space Cafe Podcast, where he orbits around the captivating subject of procreation in space with Dr Egbert Edelbroek, CEO of SpaceBorn United. Edelbroek shares insights from the frontier of space research, discussing the challenges and innovations in achieving human reproduction beyond Earth. This conversation transcends the realms of science fiction, venturing into the research and technological advancements that could one day make space-born humans a reality.

3 Memorable Quotes by Egbert Edelbroek:

  1. "The very notion of bringing new life into existence amidst the stars is not just a sci-fi spectacle but a scientific pursuit we're actively unraveling."
  2. "Our research is not confined to the vacuum of space; it extends to improving IVF technologies right here on Earth, benefiting humanity as a whole."
  3. "The cosmos doesn't just beckon us to explore; it challenges us to expand the human experience to realms once deemed unreachable."

List of All Links or Names Shared:

Choice of Music for the Spotify Playlist for the Aspiring Space Traveler:

  • Egbert Edelbroek's choice: The mesmerizing film score from Jurassic Park, reflecting the grandeur and pioneering spirit of uncharted territories.

Send us a Text Message.

You can find us on Spotify and Apple Podcast!

Please visit us at
SpaceWatch.Global, subscribe to our newsletters. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter!

Show Notes Transcript

SpaceWatch.Global is pleased to present: The Space Café Podcast #99:  Stellar Beginnings: Unveiling the Secrets of procreation in space with SpaceBorn United's Egbert Edelbroek 

Episode 099 features special guests:  Dr Egbert Edelbroek

Join Markus in an out-of-this-world episode of the Space Cafe Podcast, where he orbits around the captivating subject of procreation in space with Dr Egbert Edelbroek, CEO of SpaceBorn United. Edelbroek shares insights from the frontier of space research, discussing the challenges and innovations in achieving human reproduction beyond Earth. This conversation transcends the realms of science fiction, venturing into the research and technological advancements that could one day make space-born humans a reality.

3 Memorable Quotes by Egbert Edelbroek:

  1. "The very notion of bringing new life into existence amidst the stars is not just a sci-fi spectacle but a scientific pursuit we're actively unraveling."
  2. "Our research is not confined to the vacuum of space; it extends to improving IVF technologies right here on Earth, benefiting humanity as a whole."
  3. "The cosmos doesn't just beckon us to explore; it challenges us to expand the human experience to realms once deemed unreachable."

List of All Links or Names Shared:

Choice of Music for the Spotify Playlist for the Aspiring Space Traveler:

  • Egbert Edelbroek's choice: The mesmerizing film score from Jurassic Park, reflecting the grandeur and pioneering spirit of uncharted territories.

Send us a Text Message.

You can find us on Spotify and Apple Podcast!

Please visit us at
SpaceWatch.Global, subscribe to our newsletters. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter!

[00:00:00] Markus: hello everyone. This is Space Cafe Podcast, and I am Markus 

[00:00:09] ​

[00:00:09] Markus: I know I might be a little late to the party, but I'm still catching up on For All Mankind.

[00:00:27] What an amazing show, I'm in the final rounds of the last season, and don't worry, I won't spoil anything for you, I'm sure most of you have already finished watching it, anyways. All I can say is, if you're a space nerd like me You've got to watch it. And there is one topic that has not been covered so far, so I do not know if it's part of the show in the first place, but a topic that has always fascinated me.

[00:00:56] And surprisingly, it doesn't get much public debate. I'm talking about how to procreate in space, because let's face it, in the long run we need to figure out how to safely make and deliver babies in space. And it turns out, it's not as simple as it sounds. A few episodes ago we had Alexander Leyendecker on the show to discuss sex in space.

[00:01:20] Unfortunately his business partner Egbert Edelbrock had to leave early from the recording session, but he had a lot of valuable insights to share, so I thought it would be a good idea to revisit the topic and give Egbert, the CEO of Spaceport United, the time and space to dive deeper into this fascinating subject.

[00:01:42] Without further ado, my friends, please join me in welcoming Egbert Ehlbrock. 

[00:01:55] Egbert: Do ski?

[00:01:56] Markus: Uh, I used to do a little bit of, snowboarding.

[00:02:00] And I have kids with, uh, a world champion gold medal winner. . 

[00:02:07] Wow. That's

[00:02:09] Well, I have children with her. I'm the donor. That's all, that's all. But I see the kids growing up. call me. She's lesbian with a Dutch woman. And so they need, yeah, a man for the sperms.

[00:02:23] And how, how did she get with you or was that just coincidence?

[00:02:27] It was kind of a coincidence. Um, when I was studying, um, this roommate kind of person, um, he was, he happens to be friends with them.

[00:02:38] I met this guy in the, in the, in the supermarkets and he says, Hey, Egbert, how are you doing? And, oh, carrying his son, little, little boy, three year old boy. I think like you're, you, dad, being a dad, I couldn't envision that, but yeah, sure. Oh, how about you? Well, well, I'm a donor. So, I don't know, am I a dad a little bit, maybe?

[00:03:00] And then a few days later he, uh, uh, he sent me an email like, Yeah, I remember you telling me about your donor role, and, and, uh, we, we talked about you with this lesbian couple that we're friends with, and they were actually very interested, and, and they hope So, you would be open to talking about being a donor for them, and that's, I was open to it because I was like an anonymous donor, and I would love to see kids growing up that I know that are mine, and that's how it started.

[00:03:32] Very 

[00:03:32] the cool thing about

[00:03:35] Egbert: the Netherlands is

[00:03:36] you can talk openly about 

[00:03:37] those things. There's other countries where we wouldn't talk about this. Yeah.

[00:03:42] Markus: and, and, and that's actually, I mean, if I would not be a donor for an IVF clinic, there would probably not be Spaceborne United. So do

[00:03:53] Egbert: exactly. So please do tell me if this is too juicy to talk about on the show. But you're Dutch anyway, so nothing is too juicy, I guess.

[00:04:04] Um, can we get 

[00:04:04] one question just out 

[00:04:06] of the

[00:04:06] way? 

[00:04:08] Sex 

[00:04:08] in 

[00:04:08] space, has it ever happened?

[00:04:11] Markus: happened? We think it did. Really? But it's not, they're gonna, they're trying to hide it.

[00:04:16] Egbert: Who is the

[00:04:17] Markus: Uh, NASA. Uh, but there's, yeah, so it's been a mythical thing ever since.

[00:04:25] Uh, but that's, I, I haven't, uh, I haven't researched that in particular. I know there's a lot of rumors, and I cannot confirm or deny, I don't really know.

[00:04:36] Egbert: sure. I heard about a story, a similar story about the Russians with a female I don't know, was she a biologist or whatever? She was supposedly sent to the Mir station for similar reasons. Maybe it's an urban myth, I don't know.

[00:04:52] Markus: Yeah, and I mean, there has been sex confirmed in space, but not human sex.

[00:04:58] Egbert: Okay. Oh, animal

[00:05:00] sex. rats, fruit flies, Okay, so what is the challenge when it comes to sex in space? We'll stop talking about sex in space in a minute, then we'll move to procreation, but this is just the 

[00:05:16] obvious 

[00:05:16] thing to talk 

[00:05:17] Markus: about.

[00:05:17] Of course, of course. There are some practical challenges for, for having sex in space, of course, um, the, the gravity. I mean, it depends if you are in low Earth orbit or in orbiting the Earth anyway, you're in microgravity. So then, then you, you need to find a way to stick together and do your thing. Um, but if you are on another planet, like the Moon or Mars, there is some gravity.

[00:05:42] So then you, you can already fix that, that part of the challenge. But also the different fluids in our body. They're used to gravity. So they're, they're used to be pulled down to the ground. So much of your blood and fluids is, is down going into your legs and everything. If you're in microgravity, the fluids are going to be more in the middle of your body and, and, and you need some blood flow to certain organs to get aroused and to, to make it work.

[00:06:13] And, and that's affected by this fluid Uh, reallocation thing. So, um, and there's the radiation things that the hormones, they, they, they work differently. So, um, testosterone levels, uh, differ. So there's a few So

[00:06:32] Egbert: would that also mean like for males that erections would not work in space?

[00:06:36] Markus: They're more challenging.

[00:06:38] Okay. Let's put it that way.

[00:06:39] Egbert: Okay. Interesting. Very interesting. Why are we talking about this now? Because, because you 

[00:06:46] are specializing in procreation in space.

[00:06:50] Markus: Correct. And, and we're actually, uh, taking sex out of the equation. 

[00:06:56] Egbert: Yes. So, 

[00:06:57] Markus: few decades. 

[00:06:59] Egbert: For 

[00:06:59] a few 

[00:06:59] decades. but it 

[00:07:00] should 

[00:07:01] come back at some point because it's

[00:07:02] not a 

[00:07:02] bad thing. But 

[00:07:04] first 

[00:07:04] we need to, 

[00:07:05] or 

[00:07:06] science 

[00:07:07] needs to

[00:07:07] find 

[00:07:08] solutions 

[00:07:09] to 

[00:07:09] the 

[00:07:09] obvious. Does it work all together? Is it possible to procreate?

[00:07:16] Markus: Yeah. And is it, is it possible in a safe way? Okay. Both for, uh, the mother and the, the, the fetus or the 

[00:07:23] Egbert: Okay. 

[00:07:24] Markus: Okay. And, and the child.

[00:07:25] Egbert: So you 

[00:07:26] mentioned sex among animals 

[00:07:28] already happened. Has that 

[00:07:30] ever produced any offspring?

[00:07:32] Markus: Oh yeah.

[00:07:33] There are, uh, uh, space born mouse pups. Huh. Uh, because they, they need to, to check for multi generational effects of, uh, uh, space and radiation, uh, microgravity. So they, they, uh, yeah, there are space born animals.

[00:07:49] Egbert: That's fascinating. Now, so there is mice that have never seen Earth.

[00:07:55] Markus: Oh, yes, they, they are, um, um, well, they're, they're created in space, but they're examined on Earth.

[00:08:03] Egbert: Of 

[00:08:03] course. But potentially, they would never need to see Earth because they were born in space. 

[00:08:10] Potentially,

[00:08:11] if 

[00:08:11] they haven't 

[00:08:11] been 

[00:08:12] brought 

[00:08:12] back. 

[00:08:13] Markus: correct.

[00:08:14] Egbert: Are space

[00:08:15] mice?

[00:08:16] different to Earth mice?

[00:08:18] Markus: Yes, uh, it's, um, especially the gravity again.

[00:08:22] I mean, all the species on earth have been, um, developed in earth like gravity. And it's for the first time now, for a few decades, that we're taking that standard factor out of the equation and we're changing that. We're looking at microgravity or partial gravity. Um, so the vestibular system, the balancing organs, they don't function as well as when you are born on Earth.

[00:08:51] So these mouse pups, for example, there is a drop test. You put them on their back and you drop them and you see if they change position to catch themselves. And if you're born, if you're a mouse and you're born on Earth, that functions, that works very well. But if you're, um, if you've developed and you've been born in space, then that, that's malfunctioning a little bit.

[00:09:20] It's slower. Those reflexes. 

[00:09:22] Egbert: we have a bunch of malfunctions. Are there any beneficial developments we've seen so far?

[00:09:28] Markus: Well, there, there are so many, um, uh, epigenetic triggers that can be caused by, by, uh, changing the gravity level. Uh, there are different radiation, uh, areas, different radiation levels. So they're, they're looking into all of these things and they are expecting that, uh, some of those will be certainly beneficial.

[00:09:49] Some cell metabolisms work better. Um, there, yeah, there's, there's, uh, but. They have to do a lot more of this homework before they can actually use this, this data and translate it into real benefits.

[00:10:05] Egbert: Fascinating. 

[00:10:06] Before 

[00:10:07] we get more into, into that field, tell us a little bit about yourself. How you ended up in what you were doing.

[00:10:14] Markus: Yeah, I understand the question, of course. So, um, I happen to be a donor for an IVF clinic. So, uh, I'm a sperm donor. And, um, in that role, I, I learned a lot of things about, uh, IVF technology. And, uh, somewhere in that In that learning process, it triggered the question, like, Hey, could we maybe change a few things from this equipment and make that work in space?

[00:10:47] Because that would help solve the reproduction challenges.

[00:10:51] Egbert: But why do you think about space? Was there any affinity to space or was it just a random idea you had? During your waiting period

[00:10:59] Markus: Yeah. It was clinic. So kind of in between. So I did, I don't have a background in, in space technology or, or mission architecture and or space systems engineering of any of any of those.

[00:11:11] Uh, but I did, yes, I did have a passion, uh, uh, but not super dominant in any way. So I like to play with, with spa shuttles as a kid or Sure. Things like that. But nothing really.

[00:11:22] My background is, my background is in organizational science with a little bit of human resource management. And then I did my PhD in courage development.

[00:11:39] Egbert: Courage development. 

[00:11:40] Markus: Yeah. And, and, and in doing that, doing that research, I learned I was enjoying connecting different domains. Um, and, and finding, getting new insights from there. So, courage has some, uh, uh, psychological components, some, some, some, uh, social, sociological components, uh, biological, neurological components. And I was able to, to, uh, look in all of those domains and, and connect them together to, to develop tools that foster 

[00:12:17] courage. And I learned I was Yeah, that's a good role for me. I'm more of a generalist looking at multiple areas and then connecting them to new concepts or new approaches. And that's how I got stuck in this role being the CEO of. Space born United. So, 

[00:12:38] Egbert: So, 

[00:12:38] So,

[00:12:39] before you became 

[00:12:40] the 

[00:12:40] CEO, 

[00:12:40] you 

[00:12:40] had that 

[00:12:41] Markus: idea. Yeah. 

[00:12:42] Egbert: And then what?

[00:12:43] Markus: Then what?

[00:12:43] Well, as an, as an entrepreneur, you have all these ideas. So this was one of them. You have 10 ideas a month, and most of them don't survive the end of the month. And that's a, that's perfectly, perfectly natural. Um, but sometimes ideas, they, they, uh, trigger enthusiasm and positive feedback so I was. Um, I was sharing this, all, all these ideas with, with other people and people were thinking, hey, this is not just relevant for procreation in space, but also for the, for the IVF sector itself. Um, and, and you, you realize, Egbert, uh, this, this has strong ethical implications, but I, I have a friend, he's an ethical expert.

[00:13:27] I'll connect you to him. And so step by step, people were, uh, asking, Hey, can I join this, this exploration? And, Oh, I have a friend. And she is good with this topic.

[00:13:41] Egbert: You're from the 

[00:13:41] Netherlands. Yeah. So, 

[00:13:42] there 

[00:13:43] is 

[00:13:43] an 

[00:13:43] open minded approach towards, um, fringe topics anyways in the first place,

[00:13:51] Markus: Well, to be really honest, uh, the Netherlands is trying to be like that.

[00:13:57] They're trying to encourage, well, they are encouraging innovation. But when it comes to the nitty gritty, to the details and, and The actual programs, hmm, I see other countries being a little bit better in that, but they're trying and they're progressing, but, um, it's not like there's the best innovative

[00:14:20] Egbert: Okay.

[00:14:24] Markus: systems 

[00:14:24] Egbert: Okay. Okay. So cool. So 

[00:14:27] then you set up 

[00:14:27] your 

[00:14:28] little 

[00:14:28] team. 

[00:14:29] Markus: Oh, let, let, let me explain one more detail. Um, so the courage factor also was important because I was creating programs that foster courage. And I wanted to continue to stretch my own courage in different fields to be credible and to become credible and to stay credible.

[00:14:51] And, um, I got the feedback that, um, my, my business courage, my business courage being an entrepreneur, hmm, could be nudged up a little bit. And, and I felt that was, that was, that was true. And I heard it from more people. And I wanted to change that. I wanted to grow my business courage. So from that moment on, I was more open to opportunities in which I could foster and Stretch my own business courage.

[00:15:22] So when I, when I had this idea and it was kind of embraced by so many people, I thought like, okay. I wanted to work on my courage. Let's, let's give this a good chance and let's allocate one day a week and a little bit of budget and see where it goes.

[00:15:39] Egbert: What can we learn before we go move into procreation? What can we learn from your learnings from that PhD? Um,

[00:15:46] Markus: Um, yeah, I mean, I, you, uh, there are so many, 

[00:15:51] Egbert: because

[00:15:51] there's many, uh, startups 

[00:15:53] out there and many 

[00:15:54] entrepreneurs 

[00:15:55] facing exactly that issue. How do I find the courage to venture into the unknown?

[00:16:02] Markus: yeah. And, and, uh, you, you don't want to, you want to dream big. 

[00:16:06] You want to dare to dream big. 

[00:16:08] and surround yourself. With other people that have just a little bit more courage and they will inspire you and they will mentor

[00:16:14] Egbert: They will pull you up.

[00:16:16] Markus: Yeah, they will pull you up and they will show you that it's it's not that uncomfortable outside of the comfort zone and you can take smaller steps just outside of your comfort zone.

[00:16:29] And your, your, uh, courage will grow a little bit towards that, that level. And then you can have another step. You don't have to jump all the way into your panic zone. That doesn't work. That's going to paralyze you. But if you take small steps, you learn, Hey, I might take another slightly bigger step next time.

[00:16:48] Play, play like that. Then you can grow to any kind of big dream that you like.

[00:16:53] Egbert: That's 

[00:16:53] really fascinating 

[00:16:54] because 

[00:16:54] it's so,

[00:16:55] it's

[00:16:55] so simple 

[00:16:56] and so obvious. 

[00:16:57] Surround yourself 

[00:16:58] with like minded people who are a little bit further down 

[00:17:03] the 

[00:17:03] road already. That's interesting. Very nice. Thanks for sharing.

[00:17:08] Good. Back to procreation

[00:17:10] in 

[00:17:10] space. 

[00:17:11] Markus: So, um, uh, the first important thing to understand is. Reproduction in space by, in a natural way, so by having sex, that shouldn't happen. We don't want that to happen in the next few decades because it will not be safe, safe and ethical yet. We're going to need to, um 

[00:17:35] Egbert: Because we do

[00:17:36] not know what 

[00:17:37] could come out of this. 

[00:17:39] Markus: Yeah, there's so much things we, we want to learn first and we can, we can learn that. So to prepare for natural reproduction in space we first have to use to use artificially supported reproduction. So, uh, looking at, at, um, technologies like IVF or other assisted reproductive technologies, uh, start at, at, at, um, I mean, reproduction is, it's not one event, it, it consists of different stages.

[00:18:11] So you can study the first stage first and then move to the next. So for the last five years and the next five to ten years, we're focusing on this first stage of reproduction, conception and the first few days of embryo development. So

[00:18:28] Egbert: the in vitro conception.

[00:18:30] Markus: Uh, we are re engineering this existing IVF technology, uh, to apply in space, um, to embryo development 

[00:18:42] Egbert: Okay, 

[00:18:43] Markus: but 

[00:18:44] Egbert: we're not 

[00:18:44] talking 

[00:18:44] about human embryos yet. 

[00:18:46] Markus: Not yet. Indeed, of course, the, the, the, um, scientific community and, and, and the legislation frameworks, they require to get regulatory approval for any new step. And therefore, indeed, you start with, uh, uh, validation mission, uh, technology demonstration, initially even without any kind of living material, and then use, uh, animal models, micelles, mice gametes.

[00:19:15] And then if you prove that those, embryos are, are, are healthy enough, then you could move to another step and eventually work with, with human embryos.

[00:19:26] Egbert: I'm, I'm, 

[00:19:27] I consider myself an in vitro noob, so I have absolutely no understanding other than what one can 

[00:19:33] see 

[00:19:33] in, 

[00:19:34] in 

[00:19:34] in movies. So you have that syringe like thing that would bring sperm and eggs 

[00:19:39] together. 

[00:19:40] So 

[00:19:40] where's, 

[00:19:42] and what is

[00:19:43] the

[00:19:43] issue when it comes to doing something like this in microgravity?

[00:19:47] Because that shouldn't be a big thing to 

[00:19:49] me as 

[00:19:49] a 

[00:19:49] lay person. 

[00:19:51] Markus: Yeah. Well, you don't want to do it in, in, you're not, you're not going to be allowed to do it in microgravity, at least not with human cells. With human sperms and female cells, because it's too far away from what we're used to, what the IVF community, what the fertility experts are used to.

[00:20:10] So you need to create in an artificial way, you can create artificial gravity, but with a rotating disc, we're doing it. So before you start changing the gravity level, you have to prove that the embryos will be safe by doing this in space anyway. 

[00:20:32] The fertilization step is, is not the bottleneck. Mm-Hmm. the big challenge. It's the effects that the space environment will have. Mm-Hmm. on this developing embryo.

[00:20:43] And, and will that not create, um, disadvantages for the species, for the embryo, for the

[00:20:50] Egbert: So 

[00:20:50] what are you 

[00:20:50] seeing so far in your research?

[00:20:53] Markus: Um, we haven't done, um, conception in space yet. We're preparing for it. We're very excited that we have our first prototype finished. So our IVF in space prototype. And we're very excited it will be on board a rocket that goes into space in a test flight within about six months from now.

[00:21:18] So that's, um, so at this moment we're preparing ground based testing to see if our equipment works well.

[00:21:29] Egbert: where are you going with that experiment? Um, I guess it's not going to the ISS.

[00:21:35] Markus: it's going to be a dedicated flight. That's, that's, that's important because most people would expect indeed that you would go on board the ISS to do this space research stuff. But we need, um, Our challenge is that we work with freshly harvested female cells.

[00:21:53] Egbert: Are we talking about human cells or animal

[00:21:56] Markus: We're, we're 

[00:21:56] starting with, with, with, uh, animal cells.

[00:21:59] And, and the same is, is, is the same challenge with animal cells, female cells, is they will only remain fertile for a limited amount of time. And the experience in IVF clinics is that they, they have always done this within some six hours. So we don't know. If the fertility is changed, if you wait longer, so we, we shouldn't, we should try to stick within that very short, ambitious time window.

[00:22:25] And that means that if the, the, the launch is delayed, we need to have a backup set of, uh, uh, cells.

[00:22:33] Egbert: Cartridge?

[00:22:34] Markus: Yeah, something like that. And, and, and it also requires very late access to the 

[00:22:39] payload. And that's, that's not an option. That's really tricky for, uh, uh, ride sharing missions and, and bringing stuff on board the ISS.

[00:22:49] So that's why we are focusing on, on dedicated flights. Where we are the primary payload. We control the mission. If the IVF specialists have a delay, the rocket will wait for them. Not the other way around. So that's how we address that part of the

[00:23:09] Egbert: What next?

[00:23:10] Markus: What next?

[00:23:11] Um, uh, the, the, the next step will be an orbital mission, a real five to six day orbital mission. Again, dedicated flights. It's our mission. We control that mission. And it will carry, uh, the mouse sperms and the mouse female cells, the oocytes. So we, we will then prove that this That our device will enable conception and embryo development in space.

[00:23:38] Egbert: Do you talk with the, with ESA about those things, with NASA?

[00:23:41] Markus: Uh, yes, we talked to them, but we learned, uh, early stage that this is very difficult to address for agencies because

[00:23:51] they work exactly. So they have to work with, with taxpayer money mainly. And then it's much more challenging to get enough support for ethically delicate and complex topics. But they're, they're open about it, um, and they do things, but they have to stick with fruit, fruit flies and frog eggs and sometimes mice.

[00:24:16] Uh, it's, it's much more difficult for them to take, yeah, the steps that you want to take and accelerate the research to a level that, that is, yeah, that has the right, uh, So they encourage, they explicitly encourage, uh, focused biotech and research companies to, to address the reproduction which is good for us because that gives us a good reason to exist and, uh, less competition.

[00:24:42] Sure.

[00:24:43] Egbert: How 

[00:24:43] does, 

[00:24:44] if 

[00:24:45] you address 

[00:24:45] that topic among scientific circles, how, what is the reaction? Is that still a tricky subject to talk about or is it well received amongst scientists?

[00:24:58] Markus: it is, I mean, the big why, um, that the relevance of, of the research is, is received very well. But people are, uh, people differ, scientists also differ in their expectations about how fast we, we can move on.

[00:25:14] They're used to a very slow piece, a pace, very step by step, uh, slow progress. And we're not sure in, in which country we will eventually be doing the conception missions and, uh, with, with human cells also for that reason. We want to comply to the highest standards to get the right regulatory approval and to be ethically sound and accepted, et cetera.

[00:25:43] But we're, we don't have the same, um, the same constrictions as, as the agencies have. So that's a big advantage for us.

[00:25:53] Egbert: there any agencies that are more open to it? So do you think that ESA is more progressive or NASA is more progressive or maybe Elon has his own little pet project?

[00:26:05] Markus: He, he, he might be, um, the, the insiders, insiders that work with him a lot. Uh, they keep saying that he's really focused on engineering. He's an engineer, his company is about engineering. They're very good at it and they want to stick with that.

[00:26:21] Egbert: Engineering life could be an

[00:26:23] Markus: Yeah, that's a, that's a, that's a good approach. But, but yeah, looking at the hardware of, of, of, of, uh, space exploration. So they, they expect others to take on that, that challenge.

[00:26:37] Egbert: Why in the first place is it important to procreate in space?

[00:26:42] Markus: Yeah. So, uh, we support the, the, the plans. That the agencies, uh, share to prepare for, uh, human settlements beyond Earth, eventually also on Mars, and, um, we think that, that creates a lot of opportunities. All this, this, uh, exploration in general has, has brought so many benefits to humanity. And, and there's so much more to explore.

[00:27:09] Becoming like a multi planetary species would open up so many, uh, opportunities to learn and develop technologies and create spin off that improve life on Earth as well. And, and, and also enable our children to explore new worlds. I mean, exploration is in our DNA and we should, we should expand the human comfort zone.

[00:27:32] That's what we believe. And a little part is is also the, uh, the insurance policy for humanity. We're not doing that well with the Earth. And, and, and I fully agree with, with how Elon Musk is looking at this. So, of course, we should, we should save the Earth and, and, and, and be more responsible with it. And, and so that's plan A.

[00:27:55] We should, we should keep it nice and cozy here. And we should allocate, keep allocating 99. 9, whatever, percentage of all our resources and talents. on plan A. But just in case that's not going to be enough. We support the idea that it's also good to, um, to have a backup plan.

[00:28:17] Egbert: And that's what I was going to say. It's a backup for, for humanity. It's like, um, the, in Svalbard, the Global Seat Vault. Um, in that, what is it, a coal mine or whatever mine that was, where there's frozen seeds from all 

[00:28:33] over 

[00:28:33] the globe. Just 

[00:28:35] in 

[00:28:35] case

[00:28:37] there 

[00:28:37] is 

[00:28:37] a 

[00:28:37] catastrophe, an asteroid impact, nuclear war, we have a backup for our most important grains and 

[00:28:45] plants and whatnot. So 

[00:28:46] this is 

[00:28:46] also a 

[00:28:47] direction, 

[00:28:49] an intermediary 

[00:28:50] direction you 

[00:28:51] are 

[00:28:51] working towards. 

[00:28:52] Markus: Well, it's, it's one of the several arguments that, uh, we believe are a good reason to Uh, support becoming a multi planetary 

[00:29:03] Egbert: hmm. Would you want to go into outer space? If you were asked, if you had,

[00:29:08] Markus: Well, if it would be for a few days, I would, I would, yes, I would love it. But, um, uh, the space environment is, is well, basically trying to kill every living thing that's 

[00:29:19] Egbert: we shouldn't be out there.

[00:29:20] Markus: So it's, it's not a very safe place. And, and, and, um, uh, for example, would I go to Mars? I would prefer not to. Um, not just because that's a conflicting interest, that's not responsible being with Spaceborne United, et cetera, but, um, it's not going to be a very, uh, pleasant stay for the first few dozen settlers.

[00:29:43] Egbert: But, but this is, this is pretty 

[00:29:45] much 

[00:29:45] what has 

[00:29:46] happened on 

[00:29:47] Earth as 

[00:29:47] well 

[00:29:48] when 

[00:29:48] the 

[00:29:48] first 

[00:29:48] settlers 

[00:29:49] went to wherever they, 

[00:29:51] they went, like the first settlers that went, emigrated from Europe, from Leiden in the Netherlands.

[00:29:59] To the 

[00:29:59] United States, the Pilgrims, Pilgrim Fathers, they were, 

[00:30:03] they were not really welcomed by that very, I wouldn't say barren, it wasn't barren, but it was a hostile place for them.

[00:30:14] Markus: Imagine how strong this exploration tendency is that, that you're gonna, that they still accepted those unknowns and the risks and still, yeah, stretched the comfort zone. Yeah, still

[00:30:27] Egbert: did it. And 

[00:30:28] now here we sit in the United 

[00:30:29] States. 

[00:30:31] Very interesting. Yeah, so, talking of Mars, hostile place, um, what can you do right here on Earth to make procreation on Mars possible at some

[00:30:47] Markus: Yeah, good question. Um, so we're focusing on, on, uh, on the gravity element, especially because the gravity level on Mars is much lower than we are used to on Earth. So it's about 39 percent of the Earth gravity. And what we need to figure out and what the agencies need to figure out is if that gravity level will actually be sufficient.

[00:31:12] For embryos to, to develop in a healthy way. And you don't want to, you don't want to study that on Mars. That's crazy complicated and expensive. You can do that very close to earth in, in, in low earth orbit. And that's what we do. We, we, our research platform, our device. Um, with a rotating microfluidic disk can, can change the rotation speed of that disk in which the embryos are developing.

[00:31:38] So we can, we can study the partial gravity effects that the embryos would otherwise experience on Mars and see if that leads to healthy embryos. And, and the answer might be, okay, the Mars gravity environment is not enough. It shouldn't be 39%. It should be at least. Uh, for example, uh, 62 percent there could be an outcome and then still, uh, reproduction on Mars could be feasible, but we would at least know, uh, what is the gap, the gravity gap that we need to compensate for.

[00:32:12] So they could design solutions like, for example, rotating bedroom areas where people or at least pregnant women would have to spend the night to compensate for that gravity gap. And of course, so, reproduction on Mars is gonna, is gonna be feasible for, for human, for humans.

[00:32:30] Egbert: But gravity is just 

[00:32:31] one 

[00:32:32] of 

[00:32:32] the issues 

[00:32:32] there's 

[00:32:33] another

[00:32:33] issue, and 

[00:32:34] that 

[00:32:34] is 

[00:32:34] radiation. 

[00:32:35] Because as 

[00:32:36] far as 

[00:32:37] I 

[00:32:37] know 

[00:32:38] the Mars 

[00:32:39] magnetic 

[00:32:40] field the magnetic shield is not as potent 

[00:32:44] as 

[00:32:45] the shield 

[00:32:46] we have here 

[00:32:46] on earth because we're 

[00:32:48] being 

[00:32:49] Um, or the, the, the stellar radiation, uh, from outer space is being shielded off by a magnetic field.

[00:32:59] This is not happening on Mars. So Mars is 

[00:33:02] a 

[00:33:02] deadly place in many respects. So 

[00:33:04] how 

[00:33:05] do 

[00:33:05] you 

[00:33:05] mitigate

[00:33:05] Markus: that? Exactly. So if you don't mitigate that, it's not going to be feasible to live there for a long time. So they're looking at multiple ways to address it. And one other factor besides the magnetic field is the protective atmospheric layer.

[00:33:21] I mean, on Earth we have some 10 kilometers of Protective atmosphere that is absorbing most of the dangerous radiation. The atmosphere on Mars is very, very thin. So they are exploring options for like terraforming, which includes creating an atmosphere that will be similar to the atmosphere on Earth.

[00:33:42] But then still they also have to address this magneto, the magnetic field that is much smaller. So, yes, there's a lot of challenges around radiation, and there are lava tubes on Mars, several meters in the Mars soil, and that will protect them for the radiation, but Well, the first settlers will be underground in those lava tubes for pretty much 90 95 percent of the time.

[00:34:13] You have these artist impressions of people living in beautiful domes. Yeah, eventually that will, that will happen, but not for, maybe for 5 percent of the time in the beginning.

[00:34:26] Egbert: you want to be among them?

[00:34:27] Markus: Uh, if there would be a way to, to go there within like a week

[00:34:31] Egbert: For a weekend.

[00:34:32] Markus: Yeah, for sure. That's, that's, that's phenomenal. Um, but that's not realistic, unfortunately.

[00:34:39] Egbert: Fascinating. Um, I'm just trying to picture myself rearing, or my wife rearing, a child on Mars. I'm just asking myself, how would that feel for the child? Would that make a difference? Because the child does not know what Earth is. So, maybe, it's not a big deal. But then you have a bunch of effects on them, maybe food supply, um, while growing up.

[00:35:13] Is that the same as on Earth? Can it be controlled? Maybe that's not such a big deal as controlling gravity and radiation. Um, then the psychological effects of growing up on a different solar 

[00:35:29] body. 

[00:35:31] So is, is this something that concerns you?

[00:35:35] Markus: it, it, uh, yes, it 

[00:35:37] concerns me. Uh, big questions, logical questions. Um, and, but we know that there are so many, uh, um, research institutes and companies looking at those factors and they're, they, apparently they found, uh, acceptable answers because they continue to prepare for these settlements.

[00:35:57] But I don't know all the details on, on where there is, they still have all these challenges. There are big challenges still, but there are also hundreds and thousands of people working on them. We're really focusing on, on the reproductive. challenge. 

[00:36:11] Egbert: So, um,

[00:36:14] we're 

[00:36:14] still on 

[00:36:14] Mars

[00:36:15] and 

[00:36:15] once 

[00:36:16] we're 

[00:36:16] ready 

[00:36:16] to 

[00:36:19] fertilize an egg and 

[00:36:21] maybe 

[00:36:23] develop a healthy human being, how does it see the surface of Mars? How is it born? How would that work? Does, can, can there 

[00:36:35] be a natural 

[00:36:36] birth? Is there research in that direction?

[00:36:40] Markus: Well, everybody wants that to happen, so there, um, we should work towards that.

[00:36:47] We expect that will be feasible, uh, in our expert teams, uh, we think eventually it will be, but there's gonna be a lot of steps before that's gonna happen because, yeah, of course, that's gonna be really, really historical, and they will first, uh, as soon as we get to the point where we will actually have birth in space, uh, that's gonna happen really close to Earth.

[00:37:10] like in low earth orbit or inside an ISS like place.

[00:37:16] Egbert: I'm wondering if there is, if this is like physically possible in the, for a woman to give birth 

[00:37:21] or 

[00:37:22] would 

[00:37:22] it need to be C sectioned?

[00:37:24] Markus: Um, C section can come with complications that you want to avoid. So it would be a better approach not to do the C section. Um, but it's gonna, the, it depends where the, the mother, the pregnant, uh, woman has stayed during pregnancy.

[00:37:45] If that was on Mars or in microgravity. Um, I don't think it will be allowed to be in microgravity because the developing fetus needs a certain level of gravity and we need, humanity needs to figure out what that level should be. And then it should be organized. So space stations nowadays, they don't provide gravity.

[00:38:05] They don't provide large rotating structures that could create artificial gravity. There are some plans, recent plans actually, there's this new billionaire. Uh, releasing his plan to create a space station with a rotating wheel so that it creates, uh, gravity. Something like that needs to be in place before we can even imagine having pregnancy and childbirth in space with actual, uh,

[00:38:35] Egbert: research on earth benefiting from your research? So who is benefiting?

[00:38:41] Markus: Yeah, good question. So there's, there's this unexpected, uh, spinoff that you can still expect, but you cannot pinpoint what is going, what is going to be, uh, it's, it's still that every dollar that you invest in space exploration comes with 4 of spinoff in return, besides the primary goal.

[00:39:01] And, uh, step by step as we were, um, doing the mission architecture and involving all the IVF experts, we learned more and more that doing IVF in space, innovating IVF to be able to, to do that in space is expected to result in various improvements of IVF on earth.

[00:39:23] Egbert: Mm

[00:39:24] Markus: And, and, and there's a strong need from the IVF sector, uh, that they want to keep improving their IVF treatments and improving the success rates, but they have been stagnating for about a decade now.

[00:39:38] So they're, they're almost like desperately looking for new areas where, uh, they could, they could find new insights that, that help improve it on Earth. And they're very excited about, uh, our plans and they're excited to join our plans to study how we can improve, uh, IVF on Earth as well.

[00:39:57] Egbert: How many 

[00:39:57] similar 

[00:39:59] Spaceborne United 

[00:40:00] institutions are there on Earth? Who is doing that kind of research?

[00:40:04] Markus: Well, we don't know too much about China. They're keeping much of that a secret. We don't expect they're doing it, but so far it seems that nobody else is doing it. Other than working with very small, not aiming for human reproduction, just there are many that are focusing on small mammalian species and fruit flies and that level.

[00:40:29] Egbert: If 

[00:40:30] you, 

[00:40:31] if you're sitting down with your friends Saturday evening, having a couple of 

[00:40:36] beers, 

[00:40:37] and you talk 

[00:40:38] about 

[00:40:38] what 

[00:40:38] you do, how do people react?

[00:40:42] So I've had these gatherings with, with friends just to have a few beers and, and, uh, talk. And of course they, they, they're really interested in, in, are you really going on with this crazy thing? Um.

[00:40:57] Egbert: Is that making any money?

[00:41:00] Markus: That's one of those questions. How are you going to,

[00:41:03] Egbert: Pay your 

[00:41:03] rent? 

[00:41:04] Markus: all that? Why don't you just stick to a regular job with all the securities? Um, but they, they, I mean, I was pioneering and having these bold ambitions and some, you learn that sometimes it's a little bit too bold and you, you change your goals.

[00:41:22] And, um, uh, you have setbacks and they were like, Egbert, come on, all these setbacks. Is this really worth it? Are you, you should get, get a job that, that is actually paying the bills, et cetera. Um, so they were, I was losing my credibility

[00:41:40] Egbert: really. 

[00:41:40] Markus: times and it was, yeah, that's, that's, uh, that's a big sacrifice actually.

[00:41:47] I was really losing my credibility month after month, more and more and more. And I knew I need to continue. This is going to work. Um, but it's, it's just taking a little bit longer than I expected. um

[00:42:03] Egbert: Some 

[00:42:03] will 

[00:42:04] say 

[00:42:04] that this is the best moment for you to proceed with it when someone is doubting your work and someone is questioning what you do and someone is making fun of you because then you know that you're onto something.

[00:42:18] Markus: Oh, I'm very happy that we're, uh, since about, I don't know, I think a year and a half, we're past the point of Egbert, really, why continue with this crazy challenge? So it's being picked up by the right experts and universities and space companies, etc. So it's really valuable. The approach is good. So we're doing it.

[00:42:42] But those years before, my credibility was down the toilet.

[00:42:48] Egbert: Completely different question now, Egbert. Um, in case you're going , Into space. for a weekend It's still going to be a long and boring ride. Um, what kind of tune would you want to see on a Spotify playlist? You are, you can pick one 

[00:43:06] which 

[00:43:07] one? 

[00:43:08] Markus: I'm happy you can cut here and give me some time to think about it. I'm really, I love music, but I'm really bad at adding the right names to the right music and so, maybe you need to help

[00:43:22] Egbert: Major Tom is already taken. 

[00:43:24] Markus: Yeah, I'm really bad at this, so 

[00:43:27] that made me think of one detail that you might find funny to include. And I'm going to have to answer this question also. I don't know how. Um, uh, because you, you, you went into the courage thing a little bit. Um, I, I just, well, that's a year ago already. A year ago, I published my first book about courage.

[00:43:51] So you have your PhD dissertation. Nobody's going to read it. And then you have a popularized version. And the publisher said, So, Egbert, in about a month, um, it's going to be finished and it's good and, um, we're going to do the book launch and, and the book promotion and, and you are going to help, right? So, what do you have in mind?

[00:44:10] Oh, I hadn't given that much thought, but yeah, let me think, um, um, uh, you, you said book launch, book launch. I want to do a book launch. Yeah, we're doing a book launch, but what are you going to do? No, I mean a book launch. I'm going to make this book. I gonna launch the book in space. Very good. How about that?

[00:44:31] And that's happening The, the, the, the book will be under the mini lab uhhuh and be launched into space. 

[00:44:38] Egbert: What's the title again of the 

[00:44:39] book? 

[00:44:40] courage. 

[00:44:41] be learned. So it's, it's published already.

[00:44:44] Markus: in Dutch. 

[00:44:45] In Dutch,

[00:44:45] Okay. Um,

[00:44:52] I like, um, uh, film music. Movie 

[00:45:00] themes. Yeah, I think we should go, is that an option, 

[00:45:06] Egbert: Sure, 

[00:45:08] Markus: For some reason, I really like the Jurassic Park 

[00:45:11] Egbert: Soundtrack? 

[00:45:12] Markus: soundtrack, 

[00:45:13] Egbert: I like it. That's a picturesque part, the soundtrack.

[00:45:19] Markus: Yeah, and without explanation. Sure, that's okay. That's

[00:45:24] Egbert: Question 

[00:45:25] number two. 

[00:45:26] This is a Coffee Place, Space Cafe Podcast. In Coffee Places, you now and then have an espresso to energize yourself because you're tired or whatnot. Now, why don't you share an espresso for the mind with us now to inspire our audiences, to energize our audiences.

[00:45:42] And you can pick whatever topic you want to pick.

[00:45:46] Markus: I think that will have to do with dreaming big and allowing yourself to dream big, and not just to keep it for yourself, but to share it with others, because that will motivate you to, to actually chase that goal. And I mean, my, for myself, I would never have dreamt that Spaceborne could be what it already is.

[00:46:06] And And 

[00:46:07] Egbert: that 

[00:46:08] we're sitting here 

[00:46:08] right now. here right now, that we will have, uh, conception in space in, in, uh, in, in rockets, uh, soon.

[00:46:17] Fascinating. Egbert, thank you so much for taking the time and being part of that show.

[00:46:22] Markus: Thank you for having me, I enjoyed it, and I hope I'll be back sometime.

[00:46:26] Egbert: With the first space born

[00:46:28] child. 

[00:46:28] Markus: uh, yeah, I will bring the first space borne mouse. Thank

[00:46:32] Egbert: Thank you.

[00:46:33] Markus: My pleasure.

[00:46:34] And there you have it, folks. An Odyssey through the cosmos of human procreation in space with our insightful guest. Edward Edelbrock. from the fascinating intricacies of IVF advancements to the potential of life beyond Earth, we've truly journeyed through the stars today.

[00:47:00] And as we draw this interstellar conversation to a close, it's incredible to reflect on the sheer magnitude Of what we've discussed. The possibilities, the challenges, the ethical questions, it's all part of this grand adventure that lies at the intersection of human biology and space exploration.

[00:47:24] And to all you dreamers and stargazers out there, remember Egbert's words, dare to dream big, share your visions, and let them propel you into the realms. Welcome to another episode of the unknown, because who knows what frontiers we might conquer when we combine courage with curiosity. Thank you, Egbert, for joining us in the Space Cafe and sharing your remarkable insights and bold dreams.

[00:47:53] We're definitely looking forward to having you back, perhaps with the first spaceborne mouse, or who knows, maybe even more. To our listeners. Thank you for tuning in and venturing with us into these thought provoking realms. Don't forget to keep exploring, keep questioning, and most importantly, keep looking up.

[00:48:16] The universe is vast and filled with wonder waiting to be discovered. Until next time, this is Markus signing off from the Space Cafe Podcast. Keep your eyes on the stars and your hearts full of wonder. 

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