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 …

  1. Forget It
    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

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What is this face, less clear and clearer

      No using an iPhone X in space then

  2. Making Bacon

    In space, nobody can see you squint!

    1. MrT

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

  3. Gene Cash Silver badge

    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.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      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?

    2. Mayday Silver badge
      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.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        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...

        1. Paul Cooper

          Re: Internal eye pressure

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

    3. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      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.

      1. ravenviz Silver badge

        Re: Scott Kelly

        he's become a macaque

        Or a transcendental super human.

  4. 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.

  5. oneeye

    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.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      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.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        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)

      2. gregthecanuck
        Angel

        Re: Ummm? Artificial Gravity?

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

    2. Laughing Gravy

      Re: Ummm? Artificial Gravity?

      0 gee whizz

    3. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

      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...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        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)

        1. PhilBuk

          Re: Ummm? Artificial Gravity?

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

          Phil.

  6. Notas Badoff

    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!

    1. BugabooSue

      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. :)

    2. PhilBuk

      Re: Some can, most can't

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

      Phil.

  7. DaveN007

    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.

    1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      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.

      1. dunbankin

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

        @GruntyMcPugh

        ...and all the bagpipes.

        1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

          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.

    2. PhilBuk

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

      What we need are spindizzies.

      Phil.

  8. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
    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.

    1. DanceMan
      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.

      1. Oliver Mayes

        @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.

    2. Paul Kinsler

      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..? :-)

      1. Mark Dempster

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

        Yes, but the female crewmembers had something underneath

        1. Anonymous Coward
          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....

    3. RealBigAl

      Re: Gerry Anderson - UFO

      All hail Gerry Anderson, supreme futurist!

    4. MrXavia

      Re: Gerry Anderson - UFO

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

      They looked cool?

  9. Joe Werner

    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).

  10. Anonymous Coward
    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      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.

      1. ravenviz Silver badge

        Re: Is it really caused by zero G?

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

  11. Nimby
    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.

  12. Pat Harkin

    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?

  13. Jim Birch

    Feel the Force, you're half blind.

  14. Medical Cynic

    An apostrophic error!

    Astronauts' - more than one affected by these changes.

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