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NASA fear blindness for long term astronauts

NASA have been investigating a new condition for astronauts who spend a lot of time in space. They have found possibilities of eye problems occuring for those who spend months aboard the International Space Station. Doctors are now concerned that astronauts could go blind by the end of long missions, such as those people involved in multiyear trips to Mars.

Blindness is an extreme scenario for the space faring people, but blurred vision has been reported and NASA are putting a lot of time into researching the condition. They have even asked to put special glasses on people involved in the space station.

Dr Richard Williams, NASA's chief medical officer said “We are certainly treating this with a great deal of respect, This [eye condition] is comparable to the other risks like bone demineralization [loss] and radiation that we have to consider…. It does have the potential for causing mission impact.”

A trip to MARS is still some time away, but could blindness occur throughout the three year round trip?

NASA Surveys of 300 astronauts have shown a high percentage of people with ‘blurred vision'. Often between 30% and 60% depending on the duration of time in space. Williams has said that it is 35% for station crew members at this point, but didn't detail the condition many of them are experiencing.

According to the LaTimes “The disorder, similar to a condition called papilledema, is thought to be caused by increased spinal-fluid pressure on the head and eyes due to microgravity, although the exact cause is uncertain.”

Williams also added that at least one astronaut has never regained normal vision after spending time in space.

Whether these findings will cause delays for the planned trip to MARS in the future are yet to be confirmed, but it will take around 3 years to complete the round trip to the red planet, and back again. There are now concerns that the astronauts involved could experience serious eye problems as well as having to deal with cosmic radiation.

Kitguru says: Another complication for space travelers.

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