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Vision Problems For Some Returning Astronauts

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the blame-the-ether dept.

ISS 203

astroengine writes "A newly discovered affliction has some doctors wondering if astronauts traveling to Mars could have problems with their eyesight by the time they got there. About one-third of U.S. crew members aboard the ISS return with impaired vision, one case of which was permanent. The reason for the late discovery of this mysterious affliction is the reluctance of astronauts on active service to come forward — the risk of being grounded after complaining of blurry vision is considered too great."

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203 comments

One of many? (4, Insightful)

SoTerrified (660807) | more than 2 years ago | (#37491754)

I wonder how many other minor 'afflictions' from space travel are ignored/explained away that we haven't heard about for the exact same fear of being grounded...

Re:One of many? (3, Funny)

mdm-adph (1030332) | more than 2 years ago | (#37491858)

Like Space Herpes, for one.

Re:One of many? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37491996)

Which makes an excellent case for a masturbation-only policy while in space. Then they'll just have to worry about going... hey, wait a second!

Re:One of many? (1)

93,000 (150453) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492770)

Well played, sir.

Re:One of many? (3, Insightful)

instagib (879544) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492006)

... which would be unprofessional and probably reckless behaviour on behalf of the astronauts. One can understand the emotional reasons, but the huge efforts made for their safety would be in vain if they are not honest about their capabilities.

Re:One of many? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37492156)

Yeah but this isn't just a career, this is going into space. It's more exclusive than being a movie star. Once you're in that club, I bet you'd do anything to stay in.

Re:One of many? (5, Interesting)

Shadowmist (57488) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492586)

... which would be unprofessional and probably reckless behaviour on behalf of the astronauts. One can understand the emotional reasons, but the huge efforts made for their safety would be in vain if they are not honest about their capabilities.

That's all nice and logical from the armchair, but take it from their point of view. They're Air Force pilots, who've spent years, maybe decades to get tht shot. Knowing that Deke Slayton was grounded for the better part of a decade for a minor heart flutter, you're simply not going to take the chance if you think it's not stopping you from doing your job. That's part of "Right Stuff" mentality. The very kind of personality you recruit for the job tends to foster that kind of disposition. It would be very interesting to get the Russian data on this... they're the endurance bears when it comes to long stays in space.

Re:One of many? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#37493048)

It would be very interesting to get the Russian data on this... they're the endurance bears when it comes to long stays in space.

That presumes the Russians have the data... In general, they weren't really diligent about biomedical protocols and record keeping.

Re:One of many? (4, Insightful)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492596)

... which would be unprofessional and probably reckless behaviour on behalf of the astronauts. One can understand the emotional reasons, but the huge efforts made for their safety would be in vain if they are not honest about their capabilities.

This is pretty normal among regular air force and navy aircrew.
If you have to go see the flight surgeon, there are two outcomes. 1. remain on flight status, or 2. get removed from flight status. There is no 'up'. Hell...one of the Shuttle crew had Parkinsons [discovery.com] when he went up for the last time.

Re:One of many? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37492132)

Maybe we could ask the Russians for their medical data on their extended duration trips. They put people on Mir for far more than 6 months at a time specifically to gather data on the medical effects of a trip-to-Mars length stay in space.

Or we could sit and pout about not having run the same experiments.

Re:One of many? (1)

kanto (1851816) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492434)

Maybe we could ask the Russians for their medical data on their extended duration trips. They put people on Mir for far more than 6 months at a time specifically to gather data on the medical effects of a trip-to-Mars length stay in space.

Or we could sit and pout about not having run the same experiments.

Maybe the Russian cosmonauts are predominantly gay, hence no vision issues.

Re:One of many? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37492196)

Some of these aren't exactly minor...

Owns Syndrome
The Serious
GBS
Space AIDS
Space Kuru

Re:One of many? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37492446)

Oh no. I've got Owns Syndrome. There's no cure. I'm totally awesome.

blurry vision (1)

slashpot (11017) | more than 2 years ago | (#37491756)

I have blurry vision - in my pants!

From a glasses user: (0)

del_diablo (1747634) | more than 2 years ago | (#37491786)

What, can't handle minorly blurred vision?
I had poor eyesight from year 0 to year 12, and it was only discovered by a accident.
Stop sodding and GET TO WORK.

Re:From a glasses user: (1)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 2 years ago | (#37491810)

I'm pretty sure they require astronauts to have 20/20 vision, hence the risk of grounding.

Re:From a glasses user: (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492016)

I would have thought 'vision' would be part of the standard medical exam when they return from space.

Re:From a glasses user: (1)

foobsr (693224) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492402)

I would have thought 'vision' would be part of the standard medical exam when they return from space.

Probably a 'blinded' ex-astronaut in the command chain had the 'insight' to enlighten the doctors to not include it anymore.

CC.

Re:From a glasses user: (2)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37493038)

I'm pretty sure they require astronauts to have 20/20 vision, hence the risk of grounding.

Yes, but glasses are acceptable. The uncorrected vision requirements for non-pilot astronauts are pretty low; or were when I looked at the astronaut application process years ago.

If you look at pictures of John Young (first shuttle commander) in space you'll notice he was wearing glasses.

Lasik (0)

sxltrex (198448) | more than 2 years ago | (#37491800)

So send along a Lasik specialist. Do I have to think of everything?

Re:Lasik (4, Funny)

Nick Fel (1320709) | more than 2 years ago | (#37491934)

I'm not letting a Lasik specialist with blurry vision point a laser at my eyes.

Re:Lasik (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37492054)

Would you really trust a blurry Lasik specialist then?

Suck my dick, bitch! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37492070)

Send me! I have a lasik machine... in my pants!

Re:Lasik (1)

hipp5 (1635263) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492104)

Laser eye surgery is ruined by high g-force.

Re:Lasik (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492158)

Why would it be? Its a permanent ablation of the cornea, changing its shape - if it were ruined by high g-force, then so would normal sight.

Re:Lasik (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492224)

Same reason why the older style of cutting it open with a scalpel would result in somebody being barred from being a fighter pilot. The technology they use is somewhat different, it's akin to grinding a lens down to change its shape.

The issue is that they cut a flap in the cornea to do the work, and there's a small chance that excessive g-forces could cause it to flap open.

Re:Lasik (1)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492454)

You can have PRK, which doesn't involve a flap. LASIK, I believe, has better outcomes, but anyone without perfect vision already can't fly fighters - so if it's the only chance you have...

Re:Lasik (2)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492796)

PRK has been allowed by the USAF for all aviation positions since 2001, and Lasik was allowed in 2004 for particular aviation positions, and in 2007 this restriction was removed completely.

Fighter pilots can certainly fly after having laser eye surgery.

Also, you can fly in the USAF without having perfect vision - according to the following Air Force Times, 41% of active USAF pilots require corrective lenses to carry out their duties.

http://www.airforcetimes.com/news/2011/02/air-force-eye-surgery-widens-pilot-pool-022811w/ [airforcetimes.com]

Re:Lasik (3, Informative)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492706)

No, the flap completely reseals permanently afterward - after a week or so there is no chance of the flap reoccuring because it no longer exists.

Yes, I have had laser eye surgery. Yes, I investigated such things thoroughly beforehand.

And yes, I fly aircraft.

Re:Lasik (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37493162)

The flap is always there, but there's scar tissue that grows back and holds it together. There's always a potential for the scar tissue to break. It happened to my friend about a year after she had LASIK. She had to go back and have her flap moved back to the correct spot. I've had LASIK too. And yes, I play aircraft simulator games.

Re:Lasik (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 2 years ago | (#37493324)

No, the flap completely reseals after a week or two, unless the surgery was botched and an air bubble was left under the flap - if the surgery is done correctly, there is no flap after several days, its completely connected with the underlying tissue. That is why you stop needing eye lubrication (fake tears) after several weeks - because the nerve endings reattach and grow back. They can't do that if the flap doesn't completely seal...

Multiple laser eye surgeons assured me that there was absolutely no chance of flap movement after 14 days when I researched it.

So your friend either had very badly botched surgery, or was simply invented as an argument point.

And yes, I really do fly aircraft - why do you feel you have to denigrate that, when pilots are something we are specifically talking about? I have both single engine and twin engine ratings, tail draggers and am about to finalise a DC-3 purchase. Its not exactly difficult to get a pilots license, so why the "I play aircraft simulator games" remark?

Re:Lasik (1)

rickett81 (987309) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492298)

Pilots of commercial aircraft and military aircraft are not allowed to have lasik surgery. They instead have to have PRK surgery. Both are usually performed by the same specialist though.

Re:Lasik (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492742)

The theory is that this is caused by an enlargement of the optic nerve. Lasik would not help in this case.

Re:Lasik (1)

gknoy (899301) | more than 2 years ago | (#37493106)

Lasik won't help much with the swollen optic nerve.

Weightlessness is a Bitch (2)

Denogh (2024280) | more than 2 years ago | (#37491814)

This is just another of the long list of maladies associated with weightlessness. Artificial gravity is going to be a must for long term stays in space.

Re:Weightlessness is a Bitch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37491940)

Why do you assume it's related to gravity? It could be related to radiation (no atmosphere to deflect damaging rays), for example. Of course, I agree with you about things like bone density.

Re:Weightlessness is a Bitch (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492040)

The suspicion, at present, is that it is caused by abnormal fluid pressures in and on the eyes, due to weightlessness.

Given that we have a reasonable amount of data about radiation exposure at 1G, we can probably make at least an educated guess about what radiation does to eyes(and it definitely does have some known effects)...

Re:Weightlessness is a Bitch (1)

Denogh (2024280) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492250)

From TFA:

THE GIST

* NASA finds a link between long-duration spaceflight and a loss of vision acuity.
* The condition is not always reversible once an astronaut returns to Earth.
* Doctors believe a redistribution of cerebral spinal fluid in weightlessness is involved.

Re:Weightlessness is a Bitch (2)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 2 years ago | (#37491946)

Could this possibly be a mix of weightlessness affecting the eye muscles, and a lack of distance focal points to focus the eye on during the stay in space? Because you basically have "anything inside the ISS", "any external part of the ISS you can see", "the earth" and "infinity", while on earth you have a huge range between local and distance - perhaps its a lack of exercising the distance focusing?

Re:Weightlessness is a Bitch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37492174)

I'd guess the eyeballs just inflate a bit in zero g like the rest of the face does, and takes a while to shrink back to normal. Maybe the guy who was permanently affected hasn't got such elastic eyeballs.

Re:Weightlessness is a Bitch (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492264)

That's definitely a possibility and one that's a known risk for people that spend too much time on their computer.

Re:Weightlessness is a Bitch (1)

foobsr (693224) | more than 2 years ago | (#37493062)

lack of exercising the distance

My guess is that the breakdown of the relations within the feedback loop 'body movement' - 'perceivable outcome' may contribute a great deal to the condition.

CC.

Re:Weightlessness is a Bitch (1, Insightful)

mdm-adph (1030332) | more than 2 years ago | (#37491954)

We'll get right on that -- do you want it before or after we make the FTL drive?

Re:Weightlessness is a Bitch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37492082)

What?

We can already do artificial gravity. It gives the desired effects pretty accurately if you follow the equations right so that the body isn't in a mix of different forces between head and toes.

Re:Weightlessness is a Bitch (1)

mdm-adph (1030332) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492256)

I was thinking more "flip a switch" artificial gravity than "big spinny ring" artificial gravity.

Re:Weightlessness is a Bitch (1)

Denogh (2024280) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492680)

Reports of magnetically levitated frogs and mice aside, the more realistic near-term solution is centrifuges.

Re:Weightlessness is a Bitch (5, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492318)

If you're referring to centrifugal forces, then you might like to do the sums sometime to work out how big it would need to be for the difference between perceived gravity at your feet and in your head to be close enough not to be noticed (say, within 0.05g). Then add in the amount of extra space you'd need because you can now only use one side of every room, rather than the entire volume. Then multiply the result by the cost of getting things into space. And then realise why the ISS does not do this.

Re:Weightlessness is a Bitch (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492478)

Then add in the amount of extra space you'd need because you can now only use one side of every room, rather than the entire volume. Then multiply the result by the cost of getting things into space. ... and inflatable space stations start to sound like a better idea.

Re:Weightlessness is a Bitch (1)

PIBM (588930) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492906)

Until it`s punctured by something .. now that would be funny from down here! :)

Re:Weightlessness is a Bitch (1)

Denogh (2024280) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492874)

You are correct. We quickly go from a relatively small space station to a 2km diameter torus when we start talking about using centrifugal forces to produce artificial gravity that doesn't cause its own problems. Something like Discovery One [wikipedia.org] doesn't really seem large enough to mitigate the dizziness and other ill effects of differing speeds at head and feet.

Re:Weightlessness is a Bitch (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 2 years ago | (#37493228)

Then multiply the result by the cost of getting things into space. And then realise why the ISS does not do this.

Because our space programs are being run by tight-wads?

Re:Weightlessness is a Bitch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37493210)

Before. Just make the cabin spin.

Captcha: Reticles

Re:Weightlessness is a Bitch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37492146)

Agreed. What NASA needs to be working on right now (instead of really big rocket) is how the humans are going to survive the 6 mo trip to Mars and then the 6 mo back, without being dead. Either go faster or artificial gravity.

Re:Weightlessness is a Bitch (1)

tchuladdiass (174342) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492288)

The problem with going faster is that you would then overshoot Mars. The way you go to another planet (efficiently) is through a transfer orbit. Basically, Mars is in it's position because it is going faster than Earth (but it takes longer to go around the Sun since it is further out). To go from Earth to Mars, you accelerate to the same velocity as Mars, giving you a sort of spiral orbit until you reach the same orbit as the target planet. And if you time it right, your orbit and the target planet's orbit will intersect. Therefore you don't need to expend a lot of fuel to slow down once you get there, as it would be like coasting to a stop. Now if you try to go faster, you will overshoot the target planet's orbit, or you will need to carry enough fuel for a braking maneuver (or use atmospheric breaking for example).

Re:Weightlessness is a Bitch (1)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492580)

It's better then that: you only need to accelerate to a suitably near orbit such that you get captured by Mars' gravity well and then just coast in.

so let me get this straight... (-1, Troll)

Moheeheeko (1682914) | more than 2 years ago | (#37491862)

Im basically being told that A THIRD of the people working on BILLIONS of dollars worth of equipment on the ISS, dont tell anyone their vision isnt so hot. laser eye surgery works, how can instantly improve vision not be on the top of thier to do list.

Re:so let me get this straight... (4, Informative)

sandytaru (1158959) | more than 2 years ago | (#37491936)

The visual degradation is from the optic nerve, not from a mishaped cornea, if you had RTFA.

Re:so let me get this straight... (2)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492144)

The visual degradation is from the optic nerve, not from a mishaped cornea, if you had RTFA.

Not sure if he'd understand even if he read TFA. Most people these days assume that since we have laser, all eye conditions can be resolved. No, they can't. If the problem is the optic nerve (glaucoma for example), the clarity of the lens (cataracts) or a host of other problems, laser won't help you. It helps only for the case of a misshapen eye lens - and in case of e.g. keratoconus not even then.

Re:so let me get this straight... (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 2 years ago | (#37493308)

The visual degradation is from the optic nerve, not from a mishaped cornea, if you had RTFA.

Not sure if he'd understand even if he read TFA. Most people these days assume that since we have laser, all eye conditions can be resolved. No, they can't. If the problem is the optic nerve (glaucoma for example), the clarity of the lens (cataracts) or a host of other problems, laser won't help you. It helps only for the case of a misshapen eye lens - and in case of e.g. keratoconus not even then.

Speaking of reading TFA...

"..."Nobody knows why pseudotumor cerebri occurs..."

"With a relatively small pool of subjects to study -- around 30 U.S. astronauts have lived on the International Space Station -- doctors have not been able to determine if age, gender or previous spaceflight experience affect vision loss."

Hrm, sounds like a whole lot of statistics-by-dartboard if you ask me, since we seem to be clueless on Earth as to root cause, much less space. I guess it's good that we're identifying this now as a possible issue before sending people into deep space, but let's at least try and slow down the roll on the hype train. We have enough hype in the media already these days.

Re:so let me get this straight... (1)

Nick Fel (1320709) | more than 2 years ago | (#37491956)

Given the effects were generally temporary, lasering them might be a slightly extreme reaction.

Re:so let me get this straight... (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492034)

Because lasers are magic and can fix all vision problems.

Re:so let me get this straight... (2)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492206)

Because lasers are magic and can fix all problems!

To paraphrase an old adage:

If lasers aren't solving your problem, then you just aren't using enough of them.

Re:so let me get this straight... (0)

blueturffan (867705) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492056)

how can instantly improve vision not be on the top of their to do list?

Another Brian Regan fan! For those that don't get this, please head on over to http://brianregan.com/ [brianregan.com] and buy one of each of his CDs and DVDs. You'll thank me later.

Re:so let me get this straight... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492096)

What is curious to me is that the flight doctors weren't catching it.

Given what we know about people's response to incentives(ie. in situations valuing the "right stuff", people generally under-report problems they can get away with concealing), and given the importance of having top-performing people in mission critical situations, I would have expected the post and pre flight medical checks to be good enough to detect vision issues. Visual acuity testing isn't the cutting edge of rocket surgery...

Re:so let me get this straight... (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492324)

It's not rocket science, but by the same token, with enough motivation it can be hard to detect. Even for those that aren't trying to cheat, but have good memory, the charts they typically use are somewhat less than helpful.

Re:so let me get this straight... (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492682)

Yes, i started wearing glasses about 6 years ago and have been getting worse eyes and needing new prescriptions about ever 2 years. The first couple of times I went to get tested I was trying hard to read as much as I could from the chart feeling that I was being tested on how well I could read the letters. later I realized it would go faster if I just told the doctor I could probably guess some of the letters right, but they were still too blurry to be considered correct vision. My pride in getting the right answer was getting in the way of my need to get a correct prescription. It is hell to get old.

Re:so let me get this straight... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37492518)

>What is curious to me is that the flight doctors weren't catching it

Because the astronauts were caching their symptoms

Re:so let me get this straight... (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37493096)

laser eye surgery works, how can instantly improve vision not be on the top of thier to do list.

And is generally frowned upon by NASA due to concerns about pressure change effects. Or was as of a few years ago.

Cosmic rays (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37491864)

According to this NIH study [nih.gov] an enormous amount of LEO astronauts have reported seeing phosphenes while in orbit. These are speculated to derive from background radiation in space. Clearly, more study is needed--and more shielding.

Re:Cosmic rays (2)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492574)

According to this NIH study an enormous amount of LEO astronauts have reported seeing phosphenes while in orbit. These are speculated to derive from background radiation in space. Clearly, more study is needed--and more shielding.

According to this [mult-sclerosis.org] they are caused (at least on Earth in the general population) by mechanical trauma to a damaged nerve. If they're already seeing damaged optic nerves in returning astronauts, it makes sense that the phosphenes in orbit are symptomatic.

Obvious explanation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37491884)

Well, if you mainly look at short distances when you grow up your eyes adapt and you become near-sighted.
During the ages books, tv, video-games and whatever have been blamed for this.
The interesting part here is that this might happen to adults if they only are exposed to short distances for a longer period.
This is a field where further research is of interest. Better knowledge of how the eyes develops and how sight could be improved could save a lot of money for society and improve the quality of life for a lot of persons.

Concern (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492058)

"The question is 'Is there a possibility that an astronaut on a very long mission could arrive at the end of that mission unable to see, or be so visual compromised that he'd be non-functional?' The possibility is real enough that they need to look into this,"

I like how the concern is not that the astronauts will have to live the rest of their lives blind after getting home but that they migh not be able to do research.

Re:Concern (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37492150)

I like how the concern is not that the astronauts will have to live the rest of their lives blind after getting home but that they migh not be able to do research.

I'd trade vision to see Mars. Besides, understanding this stuff is why we should keep sending PEOPLE into space.

Re:Concern (1)

Sinning (1433953) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492236)

Good luck seeing Mars without vision...

Re:Concern (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37492334)

Where we're going, we don't need eyes.

Re:Concern (1)

kryliss (72493) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492836)

In the year 4545 You ain't gonna need your teeth, won't need your eyes.

So it's true (3, Funny)

koniu (2468724) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492078)

I guess it does get pretty lonely up there

The cause? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37492126)

I wonder if the cause is related to the fact that there are pretty much two distances to focus on: really really close, or really really really really really really really really really really really really far away.

Your smartphone ... (1)

instagib (879544) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492252)

... stop looking at it! Give your eyes a rest!

Seams all too reasonable (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492374)

The eye is not all that mysterious in my mind. It's a liquid filled ball with a lens and a light sensitive surface. The focus of the lens is managed muscles which contract based on need for focus. But since this is a liquid filled ball, various other forces work against the eye such as gravity and atmospheric pressure.

I'm willing to bet that the cause of the problems have a great deal to do with changes in gravity and air pressure. To me this seems like an obvious thing which should have been considered and accounted for. We know how to create "artificial gravity" by spinning a zero-gravity vehicle and making everyone exist on the outer perimeter. To my knowledge, this isn't being done. Instead, we are still sending boxes into space with people in them.

We already know 0-g affects the body in all sorts of ways. Calling this vision problem a mystery seems kind of stupid.

Re:Seams all too reasonable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37493130)

I'd seen this article through LiveScience and had the same thought. This just means that there's a growing body of evidence that some manner of downward acceleration is really, really needed by humans for extended flights.

"Come forward"? They should be routinely testing (1)

spads (1095039) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492466)

the hell out of them!

The best solution is.... (3, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492686)

to send the astronauts on a one-way mission to mars. The idea of bringing them back is irresponsible. The reason is that we can send a mission to mars in less then 6 months. HOWEVER, returning them is a whole different matter. It will be at least a year. As such the better solution is to send the crew to Mars for at least 10 years, or possibly life.

There are other good reasons to make at least the first couple of trips be one-way. It allows the sending group to focus on keeping a crew alive. That is actually cheaper than coming up with a return vehicle and the fuel for it. By sending one-way, it gives them time to build a base out while doing research on the planet.

Re:The best solution is.... (3, Interesting)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492870)

We can have the astronauts in a 1G field for most of the trip, extend a boom with counterbalance and spin the ship with large radius. We can send fuel for return trip by automated ship very quickly, at much less cost than sending humans. The astronauts can spend some dual-pod centrifuge time in pairs on mars doing exercises, so they can have strength to be back in earth's 1G field. Such a centrifuge could be made to fold very compactly, using mostly two astronauts weight to counterbalance each other, and a sliding part to equalize any difference in their weights.

Re:The best solution is.... (3, Interesting)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492964)

That is actually cheaper than coming up with a return vehicle and the fuel for it. By sending one-way, it gives them time to build a base out while doing research on the planet.

For efficiencies sake it would be best to have it built before humans land. The base will not be just for shelter, it will be for oxygen, electricity, and food production also.

Besides that the astronauts would require shelter while building their shelter the amount of food and supplies necessary to keep the astronauts alive while they built their habitat would exceed the cost of building a base with robots before they got there.

Re:The best solution is.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37493088)

what if... their ship was their base!

Re:The best solution is.... (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 2 years ago | (#37493354)

what if... their ship was their base!

Oh, now that's just batshit crazy right there. The UAW (United Alien Workers) wouldn't stand for it. No one is turning a damn wrench in this galaxy without union "help".

Sad part is you think this is a joke. Just watch...

one more valid argument (0)

nimbius (983462) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492696)

against manned space flight. we as a species were never designed to do anything outside of the blue earth, and its hardly likely we'll engineer a way around millions of years of evolution. Dont get me wrong, I stand with science in the hopes that one day we may colonize another planet, but i cant see us expecting months or years of spaceflight to accomplish it.

Re:one more valid argument (0)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492886)

Spin space station or ship to have 1G field, problem solved.

Re:one more valid argument (1)

AwesomeMcgee (2437070) | more than 2 years ago | (#37493060)

What about the red earth? It's an earth too!

Yeah (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492716)

The reason for the late discovery of this mysterious affliction is the reluctance of astronauts on active service to come forward

Highly relevant in the absence of a manned space program. Also it sums it up pretty well: I want to have millions of government dollars spent on me to train me, house me and feed me, but I would rather pass up a chance at actually doing the job I am supposed to do even though it's likely I will never get a chance to do it again, because 1 out of 3 (less than half) of my colleagues have had eye problems. Yep, that's "the right stuff" right there. Now tell me again why is it you wanted to be an astronaut?

No wonder the emphasis is on robots.

they're vs their (1, Funny)

martas (1439879) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492748)

I stopped reading after "They're desire is to get back into space, so they are not complainers." OK not really, but still kind of a kick in the nuts to see that in a professionally written article...

Aren;t many astronauts military pilots? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37492862)

If so this would lend credence to the shut mouth theory. A pilots greatest enemy is the flight surgeon.

Ask the Russians (1)

hackertourist (2202674) | more than 2 years ago | (#37492900)

The pool of American astronauts who this may apply to is small, but there's a number of Russians who've been in orbit for long periods.

Surprised this is news (1)

wosmo (854535) | more than 2 years ago | (#37493022)

My father was on submarines, and would come home from a 10-12 week patrol mildly short-sighted. He was ordinarily long-sighted, with a prescription to match.

We tell cube droids to 'rest their eyes' periodically during a 8 hour shift, by taking some time to focus on something that isn't 2 feet away (out the window, etc) exactly because this is a known issue. How did no-one assume that the same would happen on the ISS?

Hmmm, It's pretty hard to lie on a eye test. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37493094)

Don't they give astronauts a physical when the come back? That would seem obvious.

Atmosphere (1)

Strange Ranger (454494) | more than 2 years ago | (#37493236)

More knowledgable professionals have probably already asked this, but I'm still curious: how closely does the air mixture and atmospheric pressure on the ISS match typical earth conditions?
 
Eyes breath.

well... (4, Insightful)

xaoslaad (590527) | more than 2 years ago | (#37493332)

As someone who grew up wanting to be a Marine I can tell you I was willing to do anything to get in. When I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease I thought I was done; I had surgey at 15 and had a few section of my intestines removed; 12 inches, 8 inches, and 4 inches. Funny thing was after that I didn't really need meds anymore; not at all actually. Having gone into remission save for almost daily abdominal discomfort or pain, probably because I eat any damn thing I want even though I probably shouldn't.

I walked into recruiting stations over and over again; sometimes years apart until I found a recruiter with an immense tolerance for bullshit. Wouldn't you know it that with enough visits to doctors, MEPS, paperwork going up to Navy BUMED, and everything else I was able to get in. Waiver for Crohn's, waiver for my eyes since they're also complete crap, and moral waiver for being a naughty juvenile on one occassion. They make waivers for everything

Queue four years of active duty service; rank of Sergeant, Good Conduct Medal, NAM, etc., etc. I probably wasn't so much your most likely candidate for success in such an environment and was told lots of times buy lots of people that I couldn't. You're too sick. You're too smart. You're too weak. You can't listen to people telling you what to do...

So, some things to take away from my story:
1.) Fuck everyone who tells you you can't do something.
2.) Everyone is imperfect; make what you can of your lot.
3.) A lot of the general rules in our system just don't work in side cases (like say Crohn's being a permanent disqualifier from military service.)
4.) That's why there's a waiver for everything.
5.) Fuck everyone who tells you you can't do something.

Having been through all that though I can DEFINITELY understand where they are coming from; it is infuriating beyond words to be told you can't do something you know you are full well capable of. I could shoot, I could run, I could do the MOS that was assigned to me (went in open contract), I could swim, and I could do anything else that was asked of me. And I did. When I got out I had a job with a high tech company I am sure everyone here is familiar with as a System Administrator before I even finished my terminal leave and used the G.I. Bill to get my college degree as well.

Some people just don't want to make excuses. They don't want to be a statistic. They don't want to be one of the numbers. They don't want to have one of the myriad bullshit mental conditions 99% of America can be diagnosed with if they just see a doctor so that they can give up lay down and profess that they were willing but unable because of the lot they got in life. They don't want to go around for the rest of their life saying, I tried to join X branch of the military but couldn't because they had flat feet. Not everyone wants to be a charity case if you can believe it. Some of us want to earn our keep and make something of our selves. It is the idea that our country was born on. It's the idea that is lost and will be the cause of this countries demise as well. I feel for these people immensely when their vision starts to go and they have to deal with the possibility of some flight surgeon screwing with them.

Words to live by: Nothing. Will. Ever. Stop. Me.
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