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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: Phyorg.com, ABC News, The Pioneer



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Ugh
By Gondor on 3/14/2012 5:03:06 PM , Rating: 2
Tiffany ... I didn't have to read the author's name to know who was behind this article. When there is criticism I feel obligated to share regardng an article, holding it back could not possibly be a good thing, yes ?

A: Your article is missing the comparative figure, i.e. how many earthlings who have never been in space share the same problems. Statistics can be mangled in any way onedesires, especially when it comes to ridiculously small sample numbers such as mentioned in this article (27 ... out of 7 billion). Just to make a point in case: pretty much 100% of people eating bread are confirmed to die. DON'T EAT BREAD !!!

B: I appreciate the fact that you also pointed out that the connection between space travel and their potential problems (note that none of those four conditions mentioned really constitute permanent "eyeball and brain tissue damage" as you put it) has yet to be confirmed. What I don't like however is that you jumped to the conclusion, outlined in the headline - just because they seem to be experiencing certain changes, which have yet to be proven to be a result of their tenure in space, that hardly means they have suffered "eyeball and brain tissue damage". This could be just a temporary change and could turn out to be completely harmless long-term.

C: Ultimately, as posters before me have pointed out, if there indeed have been problems with living in a zero-gravity habitat for prolonged duration, there most certainly are ways around it. While I concur with your conclusion that (if ever proven !) this might be a setback to certain privately-owned low-cost space enterprises it's ultimately up to us (= humans) to find out a workable solution, just like we have in road travel (compare car safety of today per person per mile travelled to that of early 1900s !) or in air travel ... Yes, setbacks do occur, but we find solutions for most of them and this hardly seems to be the one there is no way to work around.

Agreed ? ;)




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