back to article NASA orders study for all astronauts over vision concerns

NASA has ordered a baseline study for all of its future astronauts after research showed that exposure to zero gravity can cause eyesight distortion. Scientists at the University of Texas Medical School used magnetic resonance imaging scans to look at the eyeballs and optic nerves of astronauts who'd spent an average of 108 …


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  1. Wombling_Free

    Risk found - stay on earth!

    Risk. What with space travel? Who woulda thunk it?

    I would have thought the risk of rapid firey death might weigh more heavily on your mind than bad eyesight; even given a chance of high-G combustion and bad eyesight I still want to go to spaaaaace!

    I have shortsighted vision, which apparently gets BETTER so that's a win-win!

    Have the now-grounded astronauts properly considered that far great risks of a desk job in a standard office? At least in space you don't die of boredom!

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      Re: Risk found - stay on earth!

      Yes, this risk of sightly deteriorating eyesight seems quite small to me compared with, say, the risk of drowning or of slow and painful death from scurvy or of being eaten by mistake by aboriginals in some distant harbour. Yet, that never stopped people from sailing all over the globe.

      Why should we be so concerned with a risk that someone may need to wear glasses after a trip to Mars is beyond me. I have to wear glasses already and I haven't even been to the Moon yet, but I don't complain.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Risk found - stay on earth!

        "Yet, that never stopped people from sailing all over the globe."

        I think if people KNEW they would get scurvy and just what a slow and painful death it was they might just have decided that working in a shop was better

        1. SkippyBing Silver badge

          Re: Scurvy

          I think you'll find sailors of the time were more than aware of the risk of scurvy. Knowledge of it was so widespread it had a common name, scurvy.

          Less sarcastically manning a sailing ship was actually a healthier profession than many shore based ones. Partially because there were less sources of infection as waste was dumped over the side rather than lying in the streets. Additionally the nautical method of sealing any amputations in molten pitch gave them a much lower risk of septicaemia as any nasties were killed off.

      2. Graham Bartlett

        Re: Risk found - stay on earth!

        On the subject of deteriorating eyesight: Until the back-staff was invented, ships' navigators *did* regularly go blind in one eye, because using a cross-staff required you to stare directly at the sun.

    2. Charles Manning

      So the Russians were right

      All this First Man to the Moon/Mars stuff is crap. Send robots, not meat sacks.

      They're easier to feed. They don't go blind and there is no grieving widow(er) when in in 50 or so flights ends in a huge fireball.

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        Re: So the Russians were right

        The Russians didn't go to the Moon because they lost the political will to do so, not because they thought sending Lunokhods was a better idea.

  2. Armando 123

    Old joke

    "Son, if you keep doing that you'll go blind!"

    "Dad, I'm over here."

  3. dssf

    o.... o.... o...

    Oblate spheroid...

  4. Antidisestablishmentarianist


    So just put an optician on board? Are they immune?

    1. dssf

      Re: Hmm

      Immune? No, but this will prove to be an eye-opening instance of "an eye for an eye".

      Now, if rapid tooth decay becomes an issues, it'll be "a tooth for a tooth", hahaha... Just don't send up a Corbin Benson version of "The Dentist", hehehehe....

      (I saw the first one,

      but not the 2nd... the 2nd was:

      "The Dentist 2 (also known as The Dentist 2: Brace Yourself") LOL! "Brace"....

      But, if this kind of dentist:

      gets into space, he'll be one helluva "leader of the plaque"...

      1. dssf

        Re: Hmm

        Whupps... I meant Corbin Bernsen, not Benson

  5. Dave 126 Silver badge

    half gravity = f half the effect?

    i.e, were you to build a centrifuge for the 'nauts, would it have to simulate a full 1 G?

    And if they only spent their sleep time there, say a third of their 'day' cycle, would the effect be reduced, or eliminated?

    How big/fast a hamster-wheel would you need?

    1. Chemist

      Re: half gravity = f half the effect?

      "were you to build a centrifuge for the 'nauts"

      To be physiological and counter the other BAD effects like bone loss and muscle wasting I'd guess that they would need to be able to stand and move around in it. Problem then is unless the diameter is large compared to body length the differential effect* between head and feet will cause problems.

      * Force at head less than force at feet

      1. stu 4


        thanks for clarifying that.

        I wasn't previously aware of the vertical orientation of the perigrination propensity of homo-sapien.

        1. Chemist

          Re: *

          If by "perigrination" you mean the act of travelling or moving you've spelt it wrong

          I don't want to labour the point but on Earth the difference in gravity head to feet is very small but standing in a modest sized centrifuge it would be quite large. Lying down wouldn't stress the bones and muscles.

    2. Armando 123

      Re: half gravity = f half the effect?

      "How big/fast a hamster-wheel would you need?"

      Perhaps we can test with a miniature giant space hamster! Right, Boo?


  6. MondoMan

    Could be the high-G liftoffs rather than the low-G mission time.

    1. dave 81

      Now that the forum is back up and running, yea, this was going to be my point, surely the few minutes at 3-4G during launch is more likely to compress the eye, than the micro gravity enviroment?

      1. Chemist

        "few minutes at 3-4G "

        I don't think that is what they are saying. The evidence points to possible fluid accumulation in the brain during zero-g is compressing the eyeball - doesn't sound healthy.

        "William Tarver, the chief of flight medicine clinic at Nasa's Johnson Space Center, said the results were suspicious but not conclusive of intracranial hypertension."

    2. Tom 13

      Possible but doubtful.

      You get lots of high-g affects far more frequently for fighter pilots, especially of the naval variety. And they specified that it results from the build-up of fluid around the eye itself.

      Of course you'll need a full bore longitudinal study and a cross comparison with the fighter jocks, so...

      Medic! We need a loan grant application STAT!

    3. dssf

      Then, if you are correct, a new launch vehicle should be looked at...

      Put everyone in a sphere and rotate or spin it accordingly so that forces can be adjusted during the launch/pre-orbit phase. Of course, it means gyros and centrifuge-like machinery and the attendant costs. And, if the sphere over-spins, or under-spins, it might impact the flight characteristics. Worse, it could get up to orbit, and then NOT STOP spinning.

      OTOH, BSG-TRS showed among the Fleet a ship that had a torus rotating about the core. I'd have thought that NASA (since Asimov and Trek, et al) would have returned to the position that if "artificial gravity (plates)" are not practical/practicable/feasible, then rotation of the ship would substitute and account for gravity's necessity for human comfort and health.

      Oh, wait... that type of ship would delay "just getting on with the mission", I suppose...

    4. DanceMan

      Or a deceleration

      Don Garlits, the legendary drag racer, was forced to retire because of detached retinas caused by a two parachute stop in testing.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Long term solution

    Space is for cyborgs.

  8. bitmap animal

    Non astronauts?

    What I didn't see in the report is the instance of this in people who haven't been into space. As people get older their eyes change.

    Did they discount other factors such as the number of launches, possible differences in atmosphere depending on where they spent their time up there.

    Plus, that looks an strange effect of low gravity, the flattening of the back of the eyeball.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      maybe these questions are why they are doing furthwer studies, such as scans before and after missions and may US scans on the ISS..

      did you even bother to read the article? will you bother to read this? am I wasting my time on a hopeless cause? thanks.

      1. bitmap animal

        @ AC 09:00 "did you even bother to read the article? will you bother to read this? am I wasting my time on a hopeless cause? thanks."

        Yes, yes and thank yo so much for your thoughts so I'm sure that must be a yes.

    2. James Cooke

      Re: Non astronauts?

      I can't imagine they haven't explored that given its been mentioned here several times already but there problem is surely going to lie in that the pool to test from is already pretty damned small to draw any evidence. Cutting it down is going to give a completely statistically unsound result.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Non astronauts?

      "Did they discount other factors such as the number of launches, possible differences in atmosphere depending on where they spent their time up there."

      I am sure they never thought of that, thanks for pointing it out. I do hope they read this forum, it could save them so much wasted effort.

  9. James Micallef Silver badge

    "showed a flattening of the rear of the eyeball which, while useful for rectifying some imperfect vision, was damaging to those with normal eyesight."

    Simple solution - choose astronauts who are myopic and they'll have 20/20 vision in space :)

  10. Graham Dawson

    adaptaion to confined spaces?

    I wonder if they've performed similar studies on submarine cres or other occupations that spend long periods in xonfined spaces? This could be the eye adapting to the lack of use for longacdistance vision.

  11. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart
    Paris Hilton

    Use of Icons

    May I be the first...

    to use a Paris icon on a story about bad eyesight that ends with the line

    "Even so, they are keen to go up again every chance they get."

    Fnaarrr, Fnaarrr.

  12. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    there *was* a plan to put a kind of cetrifuge on the ISS

    But was not viewed as *that* important at the time.

    This is a nice little demonstration (once again) that it's not the *known* unknowns that may7 kill you (galactic cosmic rays? Massive coronal mass ejection while en route to Mars) but possibly that the 'nauts might end up too blind to land.

    That said a comparison study with some of the Russian and Former Soviet Union 'nauts should be *very* interesting.

    108 days? How about Valeri Polyakov at 437 days? He should need a guide dog but does he?

    1. Graham Dawson

      Re: there *was* a plan to put a kind of cetrifuge on the ISS

      The centrifuge was for experiments, not people. You can tell from the size of the proposed device.

  13. IglooDude

    That could be ruled out by studying a group of people that regularly experience high-G effects, but not longer-term zero-G, such as fighter pilots, particularly the ones that get shot off from a carrier catapult. I'm guessing NASA has already thought of this, particularly as military pilot eyesight does get monitored and regularly tested.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gravity is good for you?

    Tell that to my wife's boobs...

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