NASA’s new priority is how to protect astronauts from going blind on the years-long trip to get wherever they are going.
“I absolutely agree that this is our number one priority,” Barratt said.
Because when Barratt blasted off to the international space station, he needed eyeglasses for distance. When he returned to Earth, his distance vision was fine, but he needed reading glasses. That was more than two years ago. And he’s not getting better.
“We really need to understand this. This is a critical point for understanding how humans adapt to spaceflight,” he said.
In the past few years, about half of the astronauts aboard the international space station have developed an increasing pressure inside their heads, an intracranial pressure that reshapes their optic nerve, causing a significant shift in the eyesight of male astronauts. Doctors call it papilledema.
Female space travelers have not been affected.
Some of the astronauts slowly recover. Others have not.
Space station astronauts typically spend about six months in orbit.
Barratt is one of 10 male astronauts, all older than 45, who have not recovered. Barratt returned from a six-month stint aboard the station in October 2009 and has experienced a profound change in his sight.
Wow. What's going on up there? Though I half wonder if the key phrase in this story isn't male astronauts, all older than 45. It still needs to be addressed though.