back to article Doctor finds physical changes to astronaut's eyes after ISS stint

An ophthalmologist studying astronauts in the International Space Station has found long-term structural changes in their eyes. Nimesh Patel, an assistant professor at the University of Houston, examined data taken from the optic nerve head, the circular area at the back of the eyeballs where the optic nerve is connected to …

Boffin

What is this face, less clear and clearer

The pulse in the arm, less strong and stronger—

Given or lent? more distant than stars and nearer than the eye

...

TS Eliot

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Anonymous Coward

What is this face, less clear and clearer

No using an iPhone X in space then

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In space, nobody can see you squint!

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MrT

No, but we all saw Scott Kelly morph into a very passable Phil Collins double...

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Scott Kelly

If you read his book about his year in space, he mentions his eyes got bad enough after his first ISS tour that he started needing glasses. However, as far as he can tell, the year in space didn't seem to do any additional damage.

He also mentions that if it is fluid pressure, then the only way to directly measure the pressure is by doing a spinal tap, something they've avoided for the obvious reasons - not only the pain, but it's a very invasive procedure to do on-orbit.

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Contact lenses

I wonder if he'd been wearing contacts (especially more rigid varieties like the ones from 40+ years ago) if it might help maintain the shape of the lens. Perhaps Kelly would have not suffered the vision loss if he was wearing dummy contacts?

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Boffin

Re: Internal eye pressure

I recently got my eyes tested for a Class 1 Aviation Medical. This is a very comprehensive (to say the least!) test which is tonnes more than looking at letters on a chart or what numbers you can see amongst the dots (which I got wrong and had to do a secondary Farnsworth Lantern test, however I digress).

The intra ocular pressure can be measured by some device which blasts air onto the surface of the eye, and I am presuming the instrument measures the deflection of the surface of the eye to deduce the pressure. Back in the day (not so long ago) an instrument used to have to physically touch the eye.

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Pint

Re: Scott Kelly

The Scott Kelly Twins Study has recently been in the news with the announcement that 7% of his genes have been affected.

As usual, this tidbit is being misquoted: "7% of his DNA has changed".

If 7% of his DNA had changed, then he's become a macaque.

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Re: Internal eye pressure

I get that intraocular pressure test every year. I'd had the 'puffer' thing the last 3-4 years, but last time he did the thing where they numb the eye and have that thing touch it. I asked him why, he said that's more accurate so he likes to use it every few years as a sanity check on the results. Luckily the pressure is right where it should be, so I can look forward to the puffer the next few years...

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Re: Internal eye pressure

I actually prefer the contact tensometer test - for me (used to wearing contact lenses) it is more comfortable!

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Re: Scott Kelly

he's become a macaque

Or a transcendental super human.

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MrT

Observation of the effects is one thing...

... but this isn't as trivial as it first seems. Stretching and shrinking the retina layers can lead to bigger problems than blurred vision - you don't want someone potentially months away from a surgical team suffering detachment, or worse, internal haemorrhaging due to tearing of the retina.

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Ummm? Artificial Gravity?

It's obvious that some kind of artificial gravity will be a part of any long term space missions. How they achieve this, well, that'll be the interesting part.

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Re: Ummm? Artificial Gravity?

> some kind of artificial gravity will be a part of any long term space missions

Indeed, the list of problems due to lack of gravity keeps getting longer and longer.

As for the "how", I guess the easiest way will be the good old wheel like in "2001 A Space Odyssey". It will add some cost and technical problems, but I guess it's still better than letting your crew turn into a bunch of half-blind cripples by the time they arrive around Mars.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: half-blind cripples by the time they arrive around Mars.

Which just reminded me of this fragment of lyrics:

...

Half blind and paralyzed,

Going half way to somewhere else

We're building up a new home

(Shriekback/NewHome)

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Re: Ummm? Artificial Gravity?

0 gee whizz

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Angel

Re: Ummm? Artificial Gravity?

Yup, pretty much my thoughts as well. Seems the human body needs gravity. Who knew?

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Re: Ummm? Artificial Gravity?

That, or we'll need to develop reliable suspended animation techniques, which would also reduce the need to bring along so much food and air. Just don't let HAL control it...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ummm? Artificial Gravity?

Hal isn't that big of a deal, just remember a few simple rules:

* He can lip-read, so pretend you're an NFL coach on the sidelines and cover your mouth when discussing something important.

* Never leave the ship without your helmet.

* Always let him think he is correct (or at least make sure he thinks you think he is correct)

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Re: Ummm? Artificial Gravity?

And don't tell him to lie to the crew.

Phil.

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Some can, most can't

I thought about it the other day and started counting how many different reasons disqualify me going up into the black. I get above seven different physical/medical reasons.

Even if free and easy transport were suddenly available, I'd have to stay and volunteer to neaten up and turn out the lights. Or... maybe like Pierson's Puppeteers we could just move the planet? All hail Larry Niven!

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Re: Some can, most can't

I’d still go, because I am old and it’s super-cool!

Upvote for Niven! He was the author who got me into SciFi and effectively started a lifelong love of science and a career based on that!!

Thanks Larry. :)

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Re: Some can, most can't

Well, if you can't go off-planet you'll just have to become a blade runner.

Phil.

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The older I get, the more I like Earth

It's the perfect spaceship for zooming through the universe. We just need to improve our instruments.

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Re: The older I get, the more I like Earth

"We just need to improve our instruments."

We could start by burning all the accordions.

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Re: The older I get, the more I like Earth

@GruntyMcPugh

...and all the bagpipes.

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Re: The older I get, the more I like Earth

... and the bagpipes.

On Radio~2 the other week someone played the theme to 'Star Wars' on the bagpipes. At least, that's what they said the 'tune' was. Made me realise that no matter what is attempted, it all sounds the same, on bagpipes; terrible.

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Re: The older I get, the more I like Earth

What we need are spindizzies.

Phil.

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Alien

Gerry Anderson - UFO

Puts me in mind of the aliens from the Gerry Anderson live-action series UFO, which had the aliens skin stained by the hue of a green oxygenated liquid which is believed to cushion\breath their lungs against the extreme acceleration of interstellar flight.

To protect their eyes the aliens wear opaque sclera contact lenses with small pinholes for vision. The show's opening sequence begins by showing the removal of one of these contact lenses from an obviously real eye .with a pair of forceps.

Doesn't explain the purple wigs worn by the female staff on Moonbase.

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Alien

Re: the extreme acceleration of interstellar flight

I've wondered why on Star Trek they occasionally show the crew rocked around a bit by a weapons hit or some space obstruction, bu they can accelerate to warp speed with no effect at all from the G-force.

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@DanceMan

"Inertial Dampeners"

The sufficiently-advanced technology that could suppress g-force for anything the ship knew about, e.g. acceleration and turning. Didn't work so well with unexpected movements like weapon fire, it would take a moment to compensate for the sudden changes.

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Re: UFO/ Doesn't explain the purple wigs worn by the female staff on Moonbase.

... and didn't the submarine crew all wear string vests..? :-)

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Re: UFO/ Doesn't explain the purple wigs worn by the female staff on Moonbase.

Yes, but the female crewmembers had something underneath

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Re: Gerry Anderson - UFO

All hail Gerry Anderson, supreme futurist!

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Re: Gerry Anderson - UFO

"Doesn't explain the purple wigs worn by the female staff on Moonbase."

They looked cool?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: UFO/ Doesn't explain the purple wigs worn by the female staff on Moonbase.

"Yes, but the female crewmembers had something underneath"

If I remember correctly, I think the only difference was pasties... I'll have to re-watch to be sure....

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Reversible?

Did they study whether some of these effects are reversible under normal gravity? I guess they will if they not already have done so.

Or maybe a medical doctor can enlighten me why it won't get better again (could be bloody obvious to somebody who knows this stuff).

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Anonymous Coward

Is it really caused by zero G?

Changes in the eye could also be down to spending a year in a small confined space. Hardly ever looking at large open spaces is known to cause changes to the eyes.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Is it really caused by zero G?

OTOH: the space station crew is close to a view of a *very* large open space they can look at.

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Re: Is it really caused by zero G?

Not really, space might as well be painted on the windows.

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Joke

Brain in a jar.

Just suck my brain out and put it in a robot body and I'll happily live in space forever.

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My god. It's full of...

full of... full.. What are those things? They look like rice grains or something? Gary? Can you see them?

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Feel the Force, you're half blind.

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An apostrophic error!

Astronauts' - more than one affected by these changes.

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