The Netherlands biotech startup SpaceLife Origin aimed to be the first company to make human reproduction in space a safe possibility to ensure future generations beyond earth. In October 2018, the company announced its 2020-2024 Missions Program. However, by June 2019, plans had changed.
Original mission plans
SpaceLife Origin intended to realize human reproduction in outer space using a process involving three distinct “missions.”
During the first, Mission Ark, eggs and sperm would be sent into low orbit around the earth within small sphere-shaped satellites to demonstrate they can be conserved in the harsh setting of space. Cameras on the satellites would provide customers with real-time footage and tracking to let them see their ‘seeds-of-life’ in space.” When the mission began in2020, SpaceLife Origin planned to charge customers $30,000-$125,000 a test tube; however, some nonprofits would be offered some “to increase the ethnic diversity balance.”
The next mission, Mission Lotus, involved making human embryo conception in space possible by sending an embryo incubator containing male and female reproduction cells into orbit in a “Space-Embryo-Incubator.” The embryos would be conceived and begin developing before being returned in an incubator after 4 days and imbedded in their mothers for birth. This step was meant to happen in 2021 and would cost from $250,000 to $5 million.
The last mission, Missions Cradle, would be a historical moment where an expectant woman would give birth to the first human baby born in space. SpaceLife Origin said that this mission, scheduled for 2024, would last for 24-36 hours and a world-class team of trained medical experts would deliver the baby. The statement reads that the process would be thoroughly prepared for and supervised to reduce all conceivable risks, close to western standards on earth for mother and child.
In the announcement, SpaceLife Origin co-founder Egbert Edelbroek added that it would be “a small step for a baby, but a giant baby-step for mankind.” The medical community reacted with much skepticism.
Why embark on this journey?
SpaceLife Origin said that key prominent space agencies and corporations are already spending billions on space habitats, space tourism, and on work towards the attaining the ultimate objective of inhabiting other planets (e.g., Mars and the Moon). Their primary reason to do so is to create a plan-B as life on earth might become extremely difficult over the next century. SpaceLife Origin makes colonization endeavors workable, by researching and executing conditions for human reproduction in space – a matchless and vital step for the future of civilization.
SpaceLife Origin’s CEO puts operations on hold
On June 20, 2019, the company’s CEO Kees Mulder released a personal statement announcing that he had decided voluntarily to put the project on hold, calling it unrealistic for several reasons. He added that he would be keeping and protecting all his relevant contractual, ownership, and legal IP rights and that subsequent legal-related actions are presently under investigation.
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Personal reasons in sum
Mulder gave three main reasons for his decision. The first is related to new medical and safety insights. He explained that due to severe moral, safety and medical issues, he would personally no longer be associated with, or responsible for, Missions Lotus and Cradle involving ‘embryos, pregnant women and baby’s in space.’ He added that ‘in short, “better safe than sorry,” so I need to distance myself from these missions.’
Mulder’s second reason is due to new business insights. He said that the timeframe of the project’s development and execution plus an achievable business model for Missions Lotus and Cradle are, in his opinion, unrealistic in the near future.
He added that he felt that given these insights, it would be a challenge to attain adequate long-term funding, and it would also be risky for investors due to the unproven and tentative ROI plan/projections.
The third reason involves trust, which is fundamental for any undertaking. Mulder explained that he had ended his relationship with Edelbroek due to a ‘serious and unrepairable breach of trust. He gave no further details about what the breach involved saying that his legal team advised him against doing so. Edelbroek has not yet responded to requests for comments, nor have two other company employees who have left.
He said he would announce his future space-related plans and a new structure for the company in the Q3 2019. He referred interest parties to his LinkedIn profile page for further information and media updates regarding his plans.