The first question we had when we heard that scientists may finally know why astronauts have been returning from space with deformed eyeballs is probably – SINCE WHEN HAS THAT BEEN HAPPENING?
Well, the answer is that it’s been happening for sometimes, and nobody really knew why. But now they do! So that’s good.
But let’s start at the beginning.
A whole bunch of astronauts who have been involved in long-duration space travel home come back to Earth with blurry vision in recent years, and sometimes it never actually gets better.
NASA first discovered the strange syndrome in 2005, report National Geographic, after astronaut John Phillips’ vision changed from 20/20 to 20/100 after six months of space travel. After extensive testing, it was discovered that Phillips eyeballs had gotten flatter in space, inflaming the optic nerve.
It was a shock to many. Not least Mr. Phillips and the leader of the study, Noam Alperin, who said: “People didn’t initially know what to make of it, and by 2010 there was growing concern, as it became apparent that some of the astronauts had severe structural changes that were not fully reversible upon return to Earth."
Of course, people were wondering what the fuck was going on. Was space dangerous on the human body even with all the precautions? Were aliens jumping into the eye-sockets of astronauts in a bid to sneak back to Earth and begin their war of the worlds?
Well, apparently we do now know the answer, and it’s to do not with aliens but with the liquid in the human brain sticking about in places it shouldn’t be, subsequently squishing eyeballs.
It’s called visual impairment intracranial pressure, and almost 2/3rds of all astronauts who spend significant time in space have been subject to it in someway or another.
NASA say that nearly 68 ounces of fluid shifts from an astronauts legs towards their heads while they’re in space, increasing pressure on their brain and ultimately affecting their eyes.
Alperin however argues that the increased flow of vascular fluids to the head isn’t the issue, but rather the fact that space travel, and in particular the lack of different postures in space, messes up the human cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) which helps protect the brain from changes in pressure when the body shifts position.
So, now we know what’s going on, how are we going to stop it from happening in the future?
Well, err, nobody really knows yet. Have you got any ideas? Send them in to Mpora HQ and we’ll pass them along to NASA. Do it before you go in to space or you might end up spelling the address wrong or mailing us a bit of bread instead of an envelope.