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Mars trips could blind astronauts

Lack of gravity is the main culprit

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A manned trip to Mars could end up blinding its astronauts suggests research by the American Academy of Ophthalmology. The report says that long amounts of time spent in space damages astronauts' eyes.

It puts another obstacle in the way of manned Mars missions, which would be a three-year round trip requiring rocket power beyond what we can currently muster. Though NASA have put teams of their health scientists onto solving the problem, according to the LA Times.

The research published in the journal Opthalmology found that 60 per cent of astronauts on long-duration flights (six months) experienced decreased vision at short and long range, while the same problems affected 27 per cent of astronauts on short-term trips (two weeks). In some cases the problems persisted after many years back on earth, though in others they dissipated.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology examined seven astronauts in detail and questioned 300 more generally to compile the findings. The results were published last month and just flagged up again yesterday by the LA Times.

Even though blindness only happens in extreme cases, blurring of vision is a problem and NASA has shipped out dozens of pairs of glasses to the International Space station to combat the problem.

Reduced gravity has cited as the most likely cause of the eye trouble. It is known to cause short-term problems in the human body – known as Space Adaptation Syndrome – including spatial disorientation, nausea and vomiting. This is mainly caused by bodily fluids – especially spinal fluid – rising to the head and putting pressure on the brain and eyes. ®

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