Business Insider Edition

The CEO of a startup that planned to deliver babies in space says that it's suspending operations over 'serious ethical, safety, and medical concerns'

Megan Hernbroth , Business Insider US
 Jul 04, 2019, 09:54 AM
Japan has a baby problem.
  • SpaceLife Origin, a Netherlands-based startup that planned to conceive and deliver babies in space, is suspending operations over "serious ethical, safety, and medical concerns", according to a statement posted on the start-up's website by CEO Kees Mulder on June 20.
  • SpaceLife Origin announced its plan in October through three distinct "missions" but was met with concerns from medical experts, according to a report from The Verge.
  • Mulder told The Verge that he was planning on pursuing litigation but wouldn't clarify against whom. He had cut ties with SpaceLife Origin cofounder Egbert Edelbroek.
  • For more stories, go to Business Insider SA.

SpaceLife Origin is pulling out of its plans to help people conceive and deliver babies in space.

The Netherlands-based startup made headlines in October with the lofty goal of becoming the first company to "make human reproduction in space safely possible." But, according to a statement posted by CEO Kees Mulder on the company's website in June, there were "serious ethical, safety, and medical concerns" that have caused him to suspend the two missions planning to safely conceive and deliver babies in space.

The statement also said Mulder had ended his relationship with SpaceLife Origin cofounder Egbert Edelbroek "due to a serious and unrepairable breach of trust." Mulder declined to clarify the nature of this breach of trust to The Verge. Neither Mulder nor Edelbroek could be reached for comment.

The statement has replaced all other content on SpaceLife Origin's website and is also posted on Mulder's LinkedIn profile.

As announced in October, SpaceLife Origin was planning three distinct missions to execute three successful stages of human reproduction in space. 

The first, called Mission Ark, would involve sending clients' sperm and eggs into low earth orbit inside a small satellite for $30,000 (R420,000) and $125,000 (R1.7 million) per test tube, according to The Verge. Mission Ark was supposed to begin operations in 2020, and Mulder's statement doesn't specifically say that it is canceled.

The second mission was called Mission Lotus and would see reproductive cells sent into orbit for fertilization in a specialised incubator for four days before returning to earth for implantation. The Verge reported operations were scheduled to begin in 2021 and run between $250,000 (R3.5 million) and $5 million (R70 million) per customer, but Mulder said this mission was suspended.

The third, also now scrubbed, was called Mission Cradle and would have involved sending a pregnant woman into space to deliver her baby with the assistance of a medical team. It was scheduled to launch in 2024.

Mission Lotus and Mission Cradle were of particular concern to medical experts when announced in October, as The Atlantic reported at the time. Now, it seems, some of those concerns may have contributed to the decision for SpaceLife Origin to scale back its plans.

"'Better safe than sorry' so I need to distance myself from these missions," Mulder wrote of the two now suspended missions in his statement.

Mulder's LinkedIn profile indicates that he plans to pursue new "space related plans." He told The Verge: "Stay tuned but NOT pregnant women or baby's due to reasons given."

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