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  (Source: TriStar Pictures)
NASA already responded to the results, saying it will conduct studies of its own

Astronauts have the ability to see planets and other space-related beings in ways most of us never will, but new research shows that astronauts could potentially lose their vision completely by living out this profession.

The University of Texas Medical School at Houston recently performed tests on astronauts who had spent more than one month in space, and found that they had eyeball and brain tissue damage.

Texas researchers studied 27 astronauts who had participated in long-duration NASA missions. Out of the 27, nine had an expansion of the cerebral spinal fluid space surrounding the optic nerve; six of them had a flattening of the rear of the eyeball; four of them had a bulging of the optic nerve, and three of them had changes in their pituitary gland and its connection to the brain.

All of the astronauts studied spent an average of 108 days in space, either on a space shuttle mission or spending time on the International Space Station (ISS). The researchers found that the issues these astronauts have are similar to those caused by intracranial hypertension, where pressure in the brain presses against the eye sockets and skull.

"Microgravity-induced intracranial hypertension represents a hypothetical risk factor and a potential limitation to long-duration space travel," said Professor Larry Kramer, leader of the study at the University of Texas Medical School. "Consider the possible impact on proposed manned missions to Mars or even the concept of space tourism. Can risks be eventually mitigated? Can abnormalities detected be completely reversed?

"The next step is confirming the findings, defining causation and working towards a solution based on solid evidence."

The study has already grabbed NASA's attention. While no astronauts are being pulled from any programs at this point, the space agency plans to look further into these results.

"NASA has placed this problem high on its list of human risks, has initiated a comprehensive programme to study its mechanisms and implications, and will continue to closely monitor the situation," said William Tarver, head of flight medicine at NASA's Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas.

If these results were proven true, it could throw a wrench in many space plans such as SpaceX's idea to develop a reusable launch system for cheap spaceflight and Mars settlement. There are also plans to send an astronaut to an asteroid by 2025 and another to Mars by 2030.

Sources:, ABC News, The Pioneer

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RE: Well.
By TSS on 3/14/2012 1:13:22 PM , Rating: 2
Sounds to me it's a purely atmospheric problem.

Now i'm no scientist, but i can remember from my highschool biology book that the only reason we have the size that we do is purely due to atmospheric pressure. The air and fluids in our bodies are constantly pressing outwards. The only reason we don't explode is because there's atmosphere all around us pushing back. Well, to oversimplify the process.

Maybe the sollution is simply increasing the atmospheric pressure in which astronauts live. Basically turning space stations into those pre-diving tanks divers stay in before they go to work at great depths.

I'm not informed as to the atmospheric pressures in the ISS. But maybe they're just sea-level pressures, because we figured thats the atmosphere we always live in and it's worked so far so hey, why not. As well as atmosphere being rather...rare in space.

Of course we'll going to have to make the leap to artificial gravity sooner or later. I don't think we can use any plotkai like the star trek's "look we found a antigrav belt from a really ancient race" either, so it's going to be tough getting it right. Until that time, i'd say increase the pressure.

Could still be space-radiation though. That's also still an issue if we head for mars.

RE: Well.
By geddarkstorm on 3/14/2012 2:29:04 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, we don't explode because we are a contained vessel. It's the same reason why you won't "pop" if you suddenly get thrown into space. Your blood is stuck within the elastic confines of your arteries.

The only danger from rapid decompression (especially when we're talking about extreme pressures such as deep diving depths, not going from 1 atm to space) is that gasses in your blood will outgas from solution, creating bubbles (at high pressures too much gas is forced into your blood through your lungs, beyond its capacity to hold at lower pressure). Those bubbles can rupture blood vessels, aka the bends; and if done rapidly enough will blow out your lungs, ending things very messily... But your blood itself is not affected by pressure changes much (similarly, liquid water does not change volume much in response to a wide range of pressures when contained).

Consequently, more pressure on the space station may not do anything helpful. But it's still an interesting idea. Most of the problems we see are from edema, where fluid is incorrectly regulated by the body after long periods of time and starts to build up, instead of being processed out in your waste. It's like a massive case of inflammation, just without the immune response (as far as I know).

"I modded down, down, down, and the flames went higher." -- Sven Olsen

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