February 10th, 2012
08:59 AM ET

Astronaut feels space's toll on his body

It’s not really why he signed up to be an astronaut, but like it or not, Mike Barratt and his eyes have become a science project.

The eye charts he reads, the red drops that turn his eyes yellow and the ultrasounds being performed on him could determine whether he or any other astronaut ever journeys into deep space or sets foot on other worlds.

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.

He used to be nearsighted. But now, the space veteran says he’s eagle-eyed at long distance but needs glasses for reading. There is no treatment and no answers as to why female space flyers are not affected.

CNN spent part of a day with Barratt, watching as doctors monitored his progress with high-resolution testing as they try to understand how the weightless environment of space is causing half of all space station astronauts to have this vision change. Today, space station astronauts fly with specially designed variable focus glasses to help combat the vision shift.

“The big benefit of these is that they allow us to adjust for significant prescription changes,” said Dr. Robert Gibson, a senior vision consultant, who was brought in to help study the problem.

Doctors have found that Barratt’s retinas have microscopic folds or wrinkles on them, and the back of his eye, the optic nerve, is no longer round but has flattened.

“I think this is showing that there are physiologic aspects of adaption to spaceflight we weren’t seeing before,” said Barratt.

This raises a red flag for all of NASA’s plans for long-duration human space flight. The space station is supposed to be the test bed for how humans would learn to live in space, but it opens profound questions on whether humans will ever venture to  Mars or to an asteroid if they are unable to figure out how the outer-space environment is affecting the eyes.

“This has all of our attention,” said Terry Taddeo, the acting chief of space medicine at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

“It is a serious problem and one we are going to have to understand more about before we would be able to send somebody into a long-duration mission away from Earth, where they would be away for years,” he said.

Right now, the only data that doctors have are from six-month tours of duty on the space station.

NASA has begun doing extensive preflight and postflight eye exams, including high-resolution MRIs of the eyes. There have been anecdotes  from some space shuttle astronauts who also complained about vision change, but it does not appear they had long-lasting effects from the much shorter space flights that typically lasted up to about three weeks.

“What we’re seeing appears to occur within the first couple of months of flight and appears to level off, plateau after about four to five months,” Gibson said.

“If it’s just a matter of giving them a stronger prescription, we can live with that,” he said. “But if there is an elevated intracranial pressure as the cause of this, we have to be concerned about other neurologic effects."

That means there could be other effects on the body that haven’t become apparent.

This is why a three-year mission to Mars is in question.

It would be humans' next great leap, and NASA is spending almost $18 billion over the next five years to develop a heavy lift rocket that would take astronauts to the Red Planet or even to an asteroid. They would travel in a new spacecraft, Orion.

But right now, a trip to Mars is still more science fiction than fact. No one is calling this vision problem a showstopper, yet the program’s price tag begs for a solution to be found fast so NASA won’t be building the world’s largest, fastest rocket to nowhere.

Dr. Bruce Ehni, a neurosurgeon at the VA Medical Center at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, has consulted with NASA and is the only neurosurgeon on their panel.

“If they can’t predict who is at risk ... they put his health in jeopardy. They put, possibly, the mission in jeopardy if he can’t see or do his job effectively,” he said.

But Barratt thinks that any deep space venture to Mars is still 20 years away. He’s hoping that spacecraft will be a whole lot faster than anything the space agency can fly now.

“You fly fast, and you don’t worry,” he said, with a grin.

“I’m still hopeful that in 20 years, we’ll have advanced propulsion capabilities that can get us there in a matter of weeks to a few months. Then, a lot of these problems go away,” he said.

Post by:
Filed under: In Space
soundoff (591 Responses)
  1. truth

    Well.... The alien bodies recovered from Roswell had very LARGE eyes. Maybe we will adapt like them. We Americans will discover the truth.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • F. Mulder

      Well the truth IS out there....

      February 10, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
      • Andrew

        It just typically eludes anyone who claims to posess it.

        February 10, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
    • mac jones

      Yes the Aliens have been in space so long that they evolved 'space traits', that have adapted them to zero gravity. Everybody knows this, geesh....

      February 11, 2012 at 2:09 am |
    • ConfucianScholar

      The alien bodies recovered from Roswell were not alien...they were humans disfigured and pickled by the space environment. It doesn't do that to women, well...because their brains being smaller the pressure just doesn't build up and all, otherwise they would all look like Hillary after landing.

      February 11, 2012 at 4:16 am |
  2. Jim McTeigue

    Is it just me, or isn't there a significant difference between being on a space station that is in constant free fall and being in a ship that has a constant, directional force? It seems that if this problem is being caused by prolonged exposure to simulated zero-G conditions, that it might be rather easily fixed by ensuring that the force of the ships we send to Mars is sufficient to imitate gravity.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • Bob

      You're in free fall onboard the ship unless you're accelerating, because your motion is constant relative to that of the ship when you're not accelerating (and there is no planetary gravity). We do not presently have the technology to generate 1G of constant acceleration for the duration of a Mars trip (which would simulate Earth gravity if you turned the ship around halfway there for the purpose of slowing down, using 1G of force in the opposite direction to decelerate so that the ship could stop at Mars).

      February 10, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
      • Charlie

        There are not engines to maintain 1 g of acceleration, but you could generate sufficient and constant centifugal force using a space ship with a rotating disk of sufficient diameter, just like at the carnival when you spin in circles and the floor falls out.

        February 10, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
      • CityZen

        You haven't watched 2001, A Space Odyssey, have you? This problem has already been solved.

        February 10, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
      • Bulldog

        A heavy-weight disc is not required either. A tethered spacecraft that rotates with a counterbalanced weight would also provide sufficient artificial gravity. Dr. Zubrin offered this solution in his book.

        February 10, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
      • Just Me

        Just mount a small black hole in the ship. 🙂

        February 11, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • reggie

      The concept of graviational pull, mass needed for it is not something we can immitate/simulate as yet. Rotational simulation is not good either (unless we will have a hundred mule doughnut shaped spaceship rotating)...anyway good luck with your endevours 🙂

      February 10, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
      • babydoc

        If you are going to use a word like "endeavors" you should spell it right.

        February 10, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
      • SB

        @babydoc, the entire world doesn't spell it that way. In fact, the Space Shuttle is called Endeavour after HMS Endeavour. I do however question the necessity of bringing 100 mules into space.

        February 11, 2012 at 12:16 am |
      • Bisonfan

        The crew for such a mission would have to include a veterinarian to monitor the eyesight of the mules.

        February 11, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • Brad

      I think the assumption here is that any force applied to the body during a prolonged trip to Mars would be significantly smaller than that experienced on the earth's surface. This is a reasonable assumption.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
      • Brad

        To clarify: I'm speaking of the journey to Mars.

        February 10, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
  3. Shawn

    The answer as to why females are not affected is simple: Women are soulless harpies who got us kicked out of the Garden of Eve.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • Jagfrisco

      HaHa! Funny, and I am a woman!!

      February 10, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • CatSh

      Man was tossed out of Eden because he disobeyed God and instead of accepting responsibility and asking forgiveness, he blamed God and the Woman He gave him. Sounds like Adam hasn't learned his lesson.

      February 10, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
      • Women Ffed Up and U cant Deny It

        Who touched and ATE the Forbidden Apple FIRST?

        A. A woman

        End of story moron.

        February 10, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
      • Urban Myths

        Pretty humorous arguing over fairy tail stories.

        February 11, 2012 at 1:04 am |
    • Randomthoughts

      Space masturbaitshun. Something the astronauts parents didn't warn them about.

      February 10, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
      • Ron

        LOL good one..

        February 10, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
    • green

      You were dumb enough to follow though, weren't you?

      April 17, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  4. Woah

    If he would have stayed in space for the perfect amount of time his vision might have been perfect but he stayed too long 😉

    February 10, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
  5. Dustin

    ....then why don't we just send women to Mars if they're not affected? They might learn something about men while they're there and bring back that knowledge to the women here. 😉

    February 10, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • Dooma

      Will gay men be effected like hedro men?

      February 10, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
      • Daisy

        What are hedro men?

        February 10, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • Mike Wiggins

      But I thought women were from Venus!

      February 10, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
      • Bloggerrogr

        Dr. John Gray would agree

        February 10, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
  6. Deathstalker

    Well if women dont have the problem then just send a full on women crew. With maybe 1 guy or something and see what happens. I don't see what the problem is.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • us1776

      NOT ENOUGH S E X !!

      February 10, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
      • BKK

        One happy floating blind dude

        February 10, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • That Guy

      I volunteer to be that one guy.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
      • TheTeacher

        Don't you want to see pics first? It could be a living hell...

        February 10, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
      • Max


        February 10, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
  7. The all potent one

    Obviously women don't get brain pressure because they have smaller brains. Hence, no change of vision. After a male spends time in space or has a couple beers his brain swells and he gets beer goggles and a hadache the next morning.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
  8. biged

    that's cause women are not from this world

    February 10, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • BigAl

      I've been telling my wife that very same thing for 45 years! At least now I know I'm not alone on that theory. Thank you!

      February 10, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
      • Cowshed

        So are you saying the secret to a lengthy (and presumably happy) marriage is to keep telling your wife she's out of this world?

        February 10, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
  9. Jim

    Put a plasma around the passenger quarters.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  10. Mike

    The program to go to Mars will cost USD 18 billion.
    The bailout for the Greek govt announced today will cost EUR 176 billion.
    It kinda makes Mars look like a bargain, and Greece like a complete waste of money.

    February 10, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Louis

      18 Billion is a REALLY low figure. It's expected to cost anywhere from 40 to 80 billion depending on how many people we want to send up.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
      • j

        f = ucket, that's still cheap.

        February 10, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • Jim

      The bailout is nothing more than a loan that Greece will have to pay back with interest. The difference now is that this loan comes from the IMF and other governments and not the free market and private investors. I don't see how this is relevant to the Mars programme and if it is, I can't imagine how NASA plans to take back the money that they invested and especially from whom..

      February 10, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
      • Cowshed

        If I'm not mistaken, most of NASA's funding comes from all of us who pay taxes.

        February 10, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
      • Matt Phillips

        Yeah, I'm sure cell phones, gps, satellites and they countless inventions made possible by space travel haven't paid for themselves. Small minded. Get your head out of the sand one in awhile. Do you have any idea how much technology came from space travel? How much more if the space program ever becomes what it once was.

        February 11, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
      • sparky99

        Sorry Matt Phillips – space travel is NOT responsible for those advances. Every single one you listed is due to MILITARY research and development. You might want to do a little more research and sound off when you KNOW the facts.

        February 13, 2012 at 11:00 am |
  11. Jack Pants

    Why hasn't the ACLU protested or demanded a shuttle equipped for the handicapped.

    Blind astronauts can avoid this dilemma.

    February 10, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  12. Scott

    Is it any wonder that physiology that has evolved on earth for billions of years might not take well to the environment of space? Thousands of years will pass and technological developments that we can't even imagine will be discovered before we can even think about space travel. Right now it is a waste of money. To quote a great line, "Send in a droid."

    February 10, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • MistahBurns

      Your comment brings to my attention another "showstopper" to exploration that humans encountered around 500 years ago, that being scurvy. At the time we had no clue why men on long voyages were dying. However, would you suggest that we should have stopped long voyages because of this. In fact it was the long voyages that ended up finding the solution for this bout of malnutrition. It was discovered that vitamin C (I believe) would stop scurvy. Sometimes the problems we face as we explore are quite difficult, but their solutions are found because we press on. If we had stopped exploring the oceans because of scurvy how much longer would it have taken for us to come to where we are today...would you be sitting on your computer spoutig your ignorance. Who knows? But to suggest we pack it up because of an obstacle is pure stupidity.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
      • Steve_in_MA

        Awesome response. And yes, it was a Vitamin C deficiency, which prompted the British to stock their ships with limes because they contain plenty of Vitamin C, and don't spoil easily. Hence, that is why British sailors were called "Limeys."

        I'm sure we will conquer this issue. Whether it costs $18B, $40B or even $80B, the project to get to Mars is well worth it. It will employ many thousands in high paying, high skill jobs, and will tangentially create many good jobs along the way in suppliers/vendors. And then there is all the scientific progress that will come from finding solutions to new and unique problems. From that progress will come new and better products for use on earth, like Tempurpedic, Velcro and many other innovations did as a result of our Apollo program. An investment in exploration is not only an investment in the furtherance of science, but also in the advancement of our economy.

        February 10, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
      • franniemae

        I'm saving this brilliant response for a lot of innane things people say when we're talking about significant problems to be solved! Love it.

        February 10, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
      • Just Me

        The Indians would have been happier. 🙂

        February 11, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  13. Bob

    Just my opinion, most of the people (males) that went up into space have moved past the young adult years. Plus there have been fewer females than males sent into space. Therefore the males may be affected since they have been sent into space with there dying bodies.

    February 10, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • Riiiiiight

      Bob, you're absolutely right. It amazes me what specious "science" one encounters in reading CNN articles.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
  14. Corn-eye-lius

    Fortunately I am not effected by this debate. I am nearsighted in one eye and far sighted in the other. No problems.

    February 10, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • BoogerBalls


      February 10, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
  15. Professor Trollworth

    Are you allowed to smoke on the space station?

    February 10, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Todd in DC

      Nope. Oxygen is scarce up there. Besides, smoke would affect the instruments.

      February 10, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
      • The REAL Truth...

        Seriously, "smoke would affect the instruments" ?? No, smoke screws up the carbon filters and the O2 recyclers. Got nothing to do with the instruments..

        February 10, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • us1776


      February 10, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
      • jim


        February 10, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • Friar Timothy

      Ya have to go outside and sit away from all windows and doors !.............Hey thems the rules !

      February 10, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • TheTeacher

      Only weed.

      February 10, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • SpaceTrax

      No, smoking isn't allowed. First, it affects the oxygen. Plant and creature experiments routinely done must have certain controls, as well, including "clean" air. Second, even smoke that has been inhaled and exhaled leaves a film of particles over everything, and some of the instruments within the space station are very precise, needing to be kept almost "clean-room" clean. Think of the layer of dust inside a car windshield – even if you don't smoke inside it.

      February 12, 2012 at 1:06 am |
  16. Dan Bednarik

    Women are not affected because they always have their eyes closed to everything.

    February 10, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Me

      hehehe – so correct. Send them to Mars

      February 10, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
      • Keith

        MARS NEEDS WOMEN! ...great movie

        February 10, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
      • BigAl

        Send along some of those "Amazon Women on The Moon" for the ride.

        February 10, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  17. Chica

    Clearly this is evidence that men should stay home and do dishes, while women go out into the marvels of the new frontier. Hey babe, I know you lost your vision and all but you missed a spot of that glass.

    February 10, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • NetNinja


      February 10, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • FailedState

      I agree. Space should have an extensive network of sandwich shops before the men arrive.

      February 10, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
      • Mr. Zippy

        yeah, and stocked with plenty of beer.

        February 10, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
      • jayjay

        To you and Mr. Zippy...remember that the space suit size you go up with may not be big enough on your return. No one
        size fits all suits!

        February 10, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  18. RVT1K

    What is so abnormal about needing reading glasses after 40?
    And I see having your distance vision spontaneously corrected as a blessing not a problem, I had to get Lasik surgery to correct mine.

    February 10, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      Did you also read that there were physical changes too? What if the eyesight goes out in a few years? Or his head explodes due to too much pressure? To you it might seem like a "blessing". To the rest of us, not so much.

      February 10, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • John

      Actually as I have gotten older...way past forty my distance vision has improved somewhat and my reading vision has suffered.

      February 10, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
      • BoogerBalls

        That's because your brain is shrinking, negating the increase in pressure. Lucky for you I just started a new business and can help. I will lend you some new-age women astronauts that will squeeze your head for a nominal fee

        February 10, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
  19. Grateful Dom

    Forgive me for asking, but isn't 20/20 vision a requirement to become an Astronaut? How could this guy have been going to space when the article clearly says he needed glasses to see at a distance?

    February 10, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Price Willy

      Uncorrected 20/20 vision is not required to be an astronaut. Look it up on the NASA web site.

      February 10, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • NeutralMind

      No you don't :).

      February 10, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Gezellig

      For Asstronaut Pilot: Distant visual acuity: 20/100 or better uncorrected, correctable to 20/20 each eye. For Mission Specialist: Distance visual acuity: 20/200 or better uncorrected, correctable to 20/20, each eye. For Payload Specialist: All applicants must meet certain physical requirements and must pass NASA space physical examinations with varying standards depending on classification.

      February 10, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • cja

      20/20 vision was required back in the old days when astronauts were pilots. Today they are older and mostly non-pilots

      February 10, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  20. SPoqshok

    Aw please. At 45 you go from nearsighted to farsighted? It's called NORMAL!

    February 10, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Did you skim the article and miss the part about increased intercranial pressure and flattened optic nerves?

      February 10, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  21. Nate

    All the more reason to send up craft designed to spin to simulate gravity.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • Fritz

      Yeah! I'm getting sick of all this nasa bs involving zero gravity. Forget about zero gee! Humans can take zero gee for a few days with no problems. The time it will take to travel to or from the moon. But nasa insists on doing this nonsensical research about how we can live in zero gravity for months and years. We can't do it! We already know what it does to us and it's all bad! So forget about it! We evolved to live in a gravity field and that's that! Why is that so hard for seemingly smart people to understand!? They need to concentrate on building space stations, long range spacecraft or space habitats that rotate to produce gravity. The future public that will work and live in space will tolerate nothing less!

      February 10, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
      • bob

        the gravity on the IST is 91% of what is on earth

        February 10, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
      • Andrew

        Long term habitats for future populations are designed to spin, the reason we are investigating ways to live in a zero g enviroment is because A. its cheaper and less stress on space craft. B. It only needs to work for a few people aka the astronauts who explore it all first. that's why we are investigating it.

        February 10, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
      • Csmythe

        Although the earth's gravity IS 91% on the ISS the craft is actually in free fall due to it's motion around the earth. If it was sitting still relative to the earth it WOULD fall. Google orbital velocity and free fall . . .

        February 10, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
  22. Annmarie

    I have this thing called Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension, it is VERY similar to what is happening to these guys, the only differenc is that I have NEVER been to space, atleast that I know of. They doctors can't seem to figure out what cause me to have it, or how to get rid of it, all they can do is give me meds for my severe head aches and meds to lower the pressure in my skull. I had a spinal tap once to relieve the pressure that helped alot. So far my vision hasn't been to affected

    February 10, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • NeutralMind

      Hope you get better Annmarie. I had a severe retina detachment five years ago which shattered my dreams of becoming an astronaut. Eye diseases are devastating.

      February 10, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • no

      "... I have NEVER been to space, atleast that I know of."

      Are you SURE? NEVER?


      February 10, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • Matty

      @no - she could have been an alien abductee. Then she would have no knowledge of being in space.

      February 10, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  23. Freddo

    "...but it opens profound questions on whether humans will ever venture to Mars or to an asteroid if they are unable to figure out how the outer-space environment is affecting the eyes"

    Could you add just a touch bit more drama, puhleeze.

    Oh no, they'll never understand the problem, and we'll all be grounded from long-term space flight for the rest of time. Geesh. of all the myopic (pun intended) statements you could make. No, humans can't figure sh-t out, and we'll never get anywhere.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  24. rick armstrong

    Why? great question but not directed at what I ask.

    We've wrecked this planet.

    Explain to me why other than dominance here on our's
    are we spending billions on going out there?
    Rick Armstrong

    February 10, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  25. Shaun

    Just send blind astronauts to mars with camera attached to their heads... viola!

    February 10, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • checi

      Viola, violin, cello...whatever. Or should we stick to English exclamations so we don't use a stringed instrument as a French word? It's like saying, "Chow, baby!" Really.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
      • Noseferatu

        It's "Hasta la pasta, baby!!"

        February 10, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
      • Tom

        Spoil sport...

        February 10, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
      • ChaoticDreams

        not how you spell "ciao"
        ignorant fool

        February 11, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
  26. Avijeet

    We have a physical body that is very much earth bound, but it is actually our subtle body/mind that directs our physical body and senses. Our desires/consciousness in fact reside in this subtle body/mind that is not bound by the laws of physics as we know and are highly adaptive in nature.

    So, instead of wasting money on sending humans out of earth, we should conduct research to achieve the following two goals:

    1. Engineer a scalable way to create existence of subtle mind/body independent from our physical body and they may need to be transported to other planets by mechanical means.
    2. This subtle mind/body should be able to collaborate with other such subtle minds/bodies to create and live in the bodies that are suitable for other planets.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      Wow, what a concept/idea! This would make any/all traveling/going some where/when much more feasible/practical than before/yesterday.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
      • Marlin


        Quit being an ass/jerk to the op.

        February 10, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
      • Csmythe


        February 10, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
      • BoogerBalls

        @WhatWhatWhat You are a parasite/troll with venom/evil coursing through/within its veins

        February 10, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • wanderlust misfit

      What you seek is passage to the fourth dimension, where time becomes two-dimensional and each essence traverses the alternate possibilities of our Universe as one might traverse a valley. Only in Death, my friend, at the Omega.

      February 10, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • Marstar

      That's called astral traveling

      February 10, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  27. Daniel

    I would have thought the biggest problem with eyesight would originate from the strong UV light destroying the retinal and causing cataracts.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      There you go thinkin' again. Until we have data from YEARS of exposure, we don't know jack.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  28. mrsjs15

    I'd take farsighted over nearsighted any day. Take away my glasses and contacts and I couldnt find my way back home.

    Take away a farsighted persons glasses and they couldnt... what? Order off the menu?? In the grand scheme of things, I think this guy won out here.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • pam

      I agree, that would be great. Maybe they will be able to use this data to correct near sightedness. Besides that seems that age might have something to do with it. Maybe limit older guys to 3 months in space.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Chaz

      I think women are not affected by these things because evolution favors them with space-resistant bodies.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  29. PaulBoomer

    This is why aliens all have weird eyes.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  30. Anonymous

    Actually, they think women might be protected from some vision problems in space due to estrogen. NASA has funded research studying the protecting effect of estrogen on cataract formation.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  31. Diana

    What is up with referring to males as "astronauts" and females as "space travelers"?

    February 10, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Todd

      Why do we drive on the parkway but park on a drive way? Who cares!

      February 10, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
      • Todd

        Why do we call the bill we owe to a restaurant "the check" when it's really a bill?

        February 10, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
      • And ...

        Why do 24/7 convenience stores have locks on the doors?

        February 10, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
    • Fritz

      I dunno, maybe to keep guys from calling women astronauts 'astrochicks' or 'spacebabes'? Anyway, the term 'astronaut' is a doomed word anyway. It will be replaced by 'spacefarer'. Or 'space person'. Citizens of Cislunar certainly won't be calling themselves 'astronauts'.

      February 10, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  32. z

    If space causes a man's vision to sharpen at longer distances, a possibility exists for people with bad vision such as those that neither can see near or far to be able to balance out to a vision in which near and far are almost clear.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      Right, and it would only cost a hundred million dollars too!

      February 10, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  33. Ellen

    Oh, for Pete's sake! This is just a microgravity problem. Put spin on it, and everything is fine.
    Dear god. It's easy. Just have the long distance spaceship tumble end over end. It's also possible to have it spin, or even have two counter-spinning drums.

    Our bodies need gravity or a simulation of it.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • Dr. M

      The active ingredient in marijuana cuts tumor growth in common lung cancer in half and significantly reduces the ability of the cancer to spread, say researchers at Harvard University who tested the chemical in both lab and mouse studies.

      source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070417193338.htm

      The new findings “were against our expectations,” said Donald Tashkin of the University of California at Los Angeles, a pulmonologist who has studied marijuana for 30 years.

      “We hypothesized that there would be a positive association between marijuana use and lung cancer, and that the association would be more positive with heavier use,” he said. “What we found instead was no association at all, and even a suggestion of some protective effect.”

      source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/25/AR2006052501729.html

      February 10, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
      • Susan P.

        Stop government sanctioned terrorism against medical marijuana patients. For God's sake please stop.

        February 10, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
      • WhatWhatWhat?

        Very nice, good links, who would have guessed it? I guess I don't have to worry about lung cancer.

        February 10, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
      • checi

        It's also the best thing for menstrual cramps. Face it, if it improved erectile dysfunction it would have been legal yesterday.

        February 10, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Sandman

      Now that is the truth of the matter. Our bodies were designed for gravity.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
      • Carl

        Our bodies were designed for cannabis too with an abundant supply of CB1 and CB2 Receptors. Space travel will require Medical Marijuana in edible form for increased blood supply to the eyes.

        February 10, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
      • WhatWhatWhat?


        February 10, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  34. Serge Crespy

    The female astronaut's menstrual cycle may be their stabilizing factor. Questions: Does the menstrual cycle change, while in outer space?..... Does ovulation continue in space?..... (No-doubt) Has NASA researched conception, in space?...... Are there changes in sperm quality, while in outer space?

    February 10, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • Todd

      To quote Frank Sinatra...

      "Fly me to the moon
      Let me play among the stars
      Let me see what spring is like
      On a, Jupiter and Mars
      In other words, hold my hand
      In other words, baby, kiss me

      Fill my heart with song
      And let me sing for ever more
      You are all I long for
      All I worship and adore
      In other words, please be true
      In other words, I love you

      Fill my heart with song
      Let me sing for ever more
      You are all I long for
      All I worship and adore
      In other words, please be true
      In other words, in other words
      I love you."

      February 10, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • reality50

      I read somewhere that lack of gravity does indeed affect a fetus/baby in womb negatively.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  35. aaa

    Mankind is indebted to astronaughts like Barratt. Let's all hope and pray that he and others suffer no serious health problems.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      Pray? Why not do something useful instead?

      February 10, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  36. ejg

    Really Id like to know what the statistics are on how many women vs men have been to space and then compare the medical issues [Keep age in mind Statistically] Before jumping to conclusions thinking that women are more capeable of going to mars Over men. Come on women this has always been a mans world. In my opinion commenting to this artical, the coincedence with gender, Medical issues, And space arent studied
    enough to state any conclusion that women are more safe and should go before men. We need more statistic than one article 🙂

    February 10, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • checi

      Maybe Mars is a woman's world....

      February 10, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Rob

      Have you learned nothing from "Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer"? Some creatures are better suited for certain missions...Go on playing your reindeer games...

      February 12, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
  37. sandcanyongal

    Man is a land creature, like most other animals. It's a reality check that we're not the supreme beings.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • Judas Priest

      Most humans understand they are not supreme beings. Does that mean we should simply accept our lot, shove our heads up our tailpipes, and stop trying?

      February 10, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
      • Well...

        No, but the Earth was not created "simply for nothing." We are not going to find a more suitable home. And if your thinking "well the Earth won't be suitable for too much longer," please re-read my first sentence.

        February 10, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
      • I'm The Best!

        @ well...
        The earth wasn't created at all. It formed on its own. It's completely likely we'll find another planet just as suitable as earth.

        February 10, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
      • Well...

        @I'm the Best... Logically, that doesn't make sense. No matter what you believe in. Out of all the planets that are in our solar system, only Earth ended up at just the right distance from the sun, spinning at just the right angle...everything down to the tiniest molecule done just right...so that you, me and billions of others could exist. If there is a planet out there in another solar system teeming with life, then it was created too. Sorry, I don't buy the "it was formed on it's own" story. Everything that you see (your computer, clothes, car, house) had an intelligent designer. Why not the Earth?

        February 10, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
      • LOLtots

        @well, only on cnn can you get away with that arguement

        February 10, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
      • I'm The Best!

        @ well....
        Venus and mars are actually both in the goldilocks zone as well. If mars could hold an atmosphere it wouldn't be much colder than earth, warm enough to live on with maybe a heavy jacket. The earth even moves thousands of miles closer and further from the sun in its elliptical orbit.

        The tilt of the spin really isn't that important as long as everywhere gets light sometimes.

        The moon helps keep the inside of the earth from cooling due to tidal effects and even that's not perfect, its slowly getting further and further away.

        If the earth was created, there are a few really easy things that the creator messed up. With a slightly different chemical composition, the earth wouldn't experience earth quakes or tidal waves.

        The numbers don't need to be nearly as precise as you seem to think

        February 10, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
      • @Well

        Dont use the word logically if you dont know what it means.

        Earth ened up in the golden zone by chance, it's that simple. Sometimes the simplest answer is the right answer, dont over think it and lose prospective. We simply got lucky that the dominate species before us died out and we came to be. Otherwise it could be some lizard asking the same question you're asking.

        February 10, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
      • WhatWhatWhat?

        @Well...this is a scientific discussion, not a bible meeting. We don't care about your mental delusions. If there was "intelligent" design, why is it all designed so stupidly? Eyes that fail and have flaws, cancer, Alzheimer's, birth defects, and a woman's playground right next to the sewage dump. What kind of intelligence is that? Someone didn't know what they were doing, that's for sure. Either that or it just evolved over billions of years, hmmm...

        February 10, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
      • Leo

        @Well... (and others with similar thoughts)

        It's like this (and I've seen this experiment actually done): When you flip a coin for 10 hours, it's very likely you will somewhere during those 10 hours throw heads 15 times in a row. If someone was to walk in at that exact point, it would be an inexplicable miracle to that person. It's not logical and statistically probably to just throw 15 times heads in a row, the chances of that are very small, it must be a miracle!! No, because over those 10 hours it is very logical, and very probably that something like that just 'randomly' happens.

        It is the scale of time and space of our universe that makes the unlikely likely. It just looks like a miracle when you look very locally, when you look at the big picture it makes sense statistically.

        February 10, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
      • Oognok

        Actually, the earth wasn't designed with anything done 'just right' for you, me, or any one of the billions of others. Once the earth was created through natural, explicable processes that science can explain, life evolved and adapted to the existing conditions. I can point to the designer of computers, clothes, cars, and houses, but I'm certainly having some difficulty pointing to a designer of the earth. The great part is, testable, predictive scientific principles make a designer/creator unnecessary.

        February 10, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
  38. humtake

    It's amazing to see how many optometrists and astronauts comment on these articles. At least I assume you all are, considering how you are posting as if you know more than they do.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • J.C.

      ^ Bingo.

      And, even if this weightless problem proves insurmountable, it only means that space exploration will necessitate the creation of an artificial gravity environment before reaching out further than a lunar mission. That or the ships need to get a whole lot faster. 😉

      February 10, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • eyedoc

      Yes, it does make for interesting reading.
      Folks talking a lot about something they do not know about or understand.
      The prolong elevated intracranial pressure would be a show stopper.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:58 am |
  39. jim pashia

    Wow........a 53 year old that needs reading glasses.........shocking stuff........could it merely be that gravity not being present, exerting a downward pressure drawing fluids into our lower body causes pressure to be equal throughout the body, thereby increasing crainial pressure and eye pressure? this isnt rocket science people. putting astronauts into a gravity inducing spinning living quarters during the distance travel and they will be fine when they get to mars, they wont have to worry about hte microfractures and bone loss, muscle loss as much. This doesnt take a team of rocket scientists to figure out the problem and solution.........geez.........and so this is news.........?

    February 10, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • David1958

      Wow, your such a smarty. Why doesnt NASA hire you to make all the big decisions?

      February 10, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
      • Todd

        NASA has under go major budget cuts... they no longer have a "Sarcasm Extraordinaire Public Liaison" position available. Google it.

        February 10, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • Ummmmm......

      Ding, Ding, Ding! The question is why women aren't affected. My guess is it's related to the fact that women have higher fat and water content than men and helps keep things distributed properly.

      February 10, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
      • checi

        I work with 2 guys that each have way more fat content than 10 of me put together. At least I could fit through the space capsule hatch door.

        February 11, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • Judas Priest

      I'm glad to see such an esteemed intellect of your calibre engaging in the discussion.
      Firstly, yes they do understand the mechanism behind the changes in eyesight. It's not uncommon. What is uncommon is that for a few, and all of the male, the changes do not revert upon return to gravity. That is what is being investigated.
      As for simulated gravity, putting them inside a big spinning container for a long period of time is not necessarily going to leave them "just fine". Nausea and disorientation from the Coriolis force is debilitating in the short term, and may have long term effects that outweigh the benefits.
      The engineering challenges of building a habitat large enough, and strong enough to withstand the centripetal force, not to mention getting such a massive spinning object to move, are fairly daunting. Care to pit your superior intellect against the task?
      Still, now that we have a "permanent" space station, simulated gravity needs to be investigated further. We don't even have enough information to know if the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

      February 10, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • NEd Racine

      This explains why you are unemployed.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  40. Mr. Zippy

    "...but he needed reading glasses. That was more than two years ago. And he’s not getting better." Uh, could it be he's just getting older?

    February 10, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Fred

      “If they can’t predict who is at risk ... they put his health in jeopardy. They put, possibly, the mission in jeopardy if he can’t see or do his job effectively,” he said.

      But they can predict who is at risk...the men. So the answer is pretty simple, just send women.

      February 10, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
      • Todd

        I'll take "SEE NO EVIL HEAR NO EVIL" for 800 Alex...

        February 10, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • E

      Vision switching from nearsightedness to farsightedness is not a symptom of old age.

      February 10, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • Judas Priest

      Is failure ot read the article before commenting a side effect of getting older, or just of being stupid?

      February 10, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  41. bob

    I felt the toll of uranus last night.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  42. ComeBreakMe

    In all seriousness, let's look at some factors here that they obviously have left out.

    Women may not be affected, because of the relative sample size compared to male astronauts. There may have not been enough female astronauts given tours of duty at the ISS for this issue to determine that women are unaffected by this issue.

    Also, has anyone turned around and thought that age may be a factor? Most of the astronauts we send up in space are close to, if not already middle age. Their bodies are already deteriorating without the addition of outside factors. I think we are eventually going to conclude that life experience and training may be trumped by the strength and healthiness that youth brings when it comes to long distance space travel.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • Alex

      I know my father who never was an astronaut was near-sighted since his teens, in his mid-forties gradually didn't need distance glasess but needed reading glasses.

      February 10, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
      • David1958

        I'm 54, and need both.

        February 10, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • David

      It seems unlikely age is a factor, unless these wrinkling and shape changes are a natural part of old age. Otherwise wouldn't we have long since discovered this particular problem? It sounds to me like gravity is the culpable factor here or possibly the increase radiation in orbit. Given affect gravity has on maintaining our muscle mass and bone density, should it be any wonder that zero gravity affects other tissues? We need a new module for the space station, a spinning habitat to simulate earth gravity for testing the idea.

      February 10, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
      • Ummmmm......

        Although they do state that the astronauts that have not recovered are all over 45. May have an issue with the body's loss in elasticity?

        February 10, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • E

      He went from nearsighted to farsighted. Also, though technically it could be coincidence and is a relatively small sample size, probably suggests that since half of the male astronauts at the space station all had their vision change and an accompanying intercranial pressure, the cause is related.

      February 10, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • Riiiight

      ComeBreakMe, yup. Couldn't agree more. I've pointed out the imbalance in sample sizes too.

      Of course I have gotten responses from two irate women now who desperately want to believe that this is a ring of female superiority that they can wear.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
  43. ComeBreakMe

    I am a scientist and approve this study.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  44. qwedie

    That would require an tremendous amount of extra battery power. lol

    February 10, 2012 at 11:53 am |
  45. Otto

    Im sure your trying to be funny, but the sad truth is that at least with your scenario there would be some economic viablilty to sending humans on that trip as opposed to a robotic exploration craft. Streaming video subscriptions would be a gold mine.

    February 10, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  46. DanR.

    I'm a male nurse and believe me, you don't want a full female crew running anything. Two female nurses can't agree on how to change a bedpan, you want them flying 5 billion dollar ships have at LMAO!

    February 10, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  47. Alpha/Omega

    masturbating in space will cause loss in eye sight quicker than masturbating on earth

    February 10, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • DanR.

      that is why Viagra gives you vision problems.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  48. Sci Fi Guy

    Mars Needs Women

    February 10, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • Noseferatu

      & Venus needs Men

      February 10, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  49. Mike

    I'm sure the lawyers are licking their lips on this one, as they do everything else. Instead of being used to advance science, and to understand that becoming far-sighted is a consequence to doing something that many in this country only dream of, and would gladly endure for the chance to live in space and see our planet from the space station or space shuttle (not anymore), it will be used to hinder science because lawyers are probably already calling astronauts to solicit legal counsel to formulate lawsuits against NASA and the military. P.S. I'm near-sighted with slight astigmatism that is frustrating for distance vision. As long as the anticipated effects don't make me blind, I would gladly volunteer for this experiment if it meant going to the space station!

    February 10, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • BOBBY

      your skokin the whacky stuff...there ain't a chance in he!! they would ever sue....I bat there isn't one of them that wouldn't do it if they knew the risk...astronauts are not your average person..

      February 10, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Gabe

      Lawyers are almost certainly NOT looking to sue NASA or any one else over this. And if they are, they aren't very good lawyers. To state what should be obvious, space travel is an inherently dangerous activity (there's a roughly 1/50 chance of death with current launch vehicles versus 1/11 Million for regular air travel and 1/8000 for automobiles). By participating, one assumes the risks, both known and unknown.

      February 10, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  50. Brewski

    uhhhhh yeaahhhh ! Sort of a cosmic blow, if you will 😀

    February 10, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  51. MaryInBoise

    Perhaps the reason that no women have been afflicted with this is because no women have been afflicted YET. The number of people who have spent extended amounts of time in weightless environments is small, and the number of women who have is smaller yet. It may bet that this problem *could* affect a female astronaut, but they just haven't seen it yet. Still it will be interesting to see what comes of this.

    February 10, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • BOBBY

      it doesen't affect women because women are by nature near sighted.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:41 am |
      • Wen

        Mr Barratt was also nearsighted before his time on the space station.

        February 10, 2012 at 11:56 am |
      • Todd

        They are also hard of hearing... I often feel I have to tell my wife the same thing twenty times and she's doesn't remember.

        February 10, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • DanR.

      I think their smaller brains don't swell as much. Men are better at swelling.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:51 am |
      • BOBBY

        yes...much more clearly said than my comment.

        February 10, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  52. DDX


    February 10, 2012 at 11:33 am |
  53. Susan

    I don't see any comment here about the cosmonauts who spent over a year on the Mir station. Have studies been done of their eyes? How about the astronauts who spent time on Skylab back in the 70s? If you want to look for lasting effects, you'll want to study all of those people.

    February 10, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • Judas Priest

      This apparently hasn't been seen before.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:34 am |
      • Ummmmm......

        More likely is that it's been observed and the Russian's kept that stuff quiet.

        February 10, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • checi

      The Russians use the same therapy for vision problems as they did for the radiation problems after Chernobyl. They poured lots of vodka on it.

      February 10, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  54. the unallied

    I like how this article is written as the end all be all for deep space travel if this problem can't be fixed when it clearly states that woman have shown no signs of being adversely affected by it. What's the big deal if a group of woman astronauts has to be the first to go to mars while they try to solve the apparent issue for men?

    February 10, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • Realityblowz

      A group of women together in a confined space that long? They would kill each other.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:33 am |
      • Ken

        That, or it'll be "The View" from space.

        I do think more data with female astronauts is needed. More females on the ISS to study this.

        February 10, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • Mike

      In our PC culture now, someone would start to file claims against NASA for discrimination. This happens now in all aspects of American culture. Noone can be left out or they cry and get millions of dollars. I agree with you, although I would caution saying that this is the only medical condition affecting astronauts. For women astronauts, vision problems may not be an issue, but years down the line something else could happen. Some weird cancer, birth defects, Alzheimer's, or anything else. It might be too early to say that women have nothing to fear and that men only need to fear being made far-sighted.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:42 am |
      • checi

        But it takes really big muscles to be an astronaut, right? Gotta lift and heave all those weightless pencils...do manly thinking like, "Which squishy food am I going to suck out of a plastic envelope today?" Big, big responsible manly decisions.

        February 10, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  55. ART

    So we really should send Gingrinch to the moon so not only will he be dumb he could go blind as well

    February 10, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • JAM

      I'm sure it has more to do with zero gravity than anything else and there is gravity on the moon my friend...so try again and stop being a political A$$ not everything has to be about politics despite what you think!

      February 10, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  56. AnimuX

    Instead of adapting people to weightlessness, they need to simulate gravity on all long duration space missions. The most basic way to due this is to use centrifugal force - a habitat module that rotates - think of the carnival ride that spins with your back pinned against the outer rim allowing you to defy gravity as it tilts. NASA has produced many plans to do just that in order to simulate gravity (or create artificial gravity) and help alleviate the health issues associated with working, long term, in a weightlessness environment.

    February 10, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • AnimuX

      "do"... not "due"... damn typos. 😉

      February 10, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • Programmr

      Agreed. This serious medical problem has a fairly simple engineering solution.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • morph147

      that could be true but gravity may not be the cause. you got to think up in space light itself is different than on earth because earths atmosphere warps it a bit and blocks out some things. in space you dont get that luxury. so things will be different.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • Judas Priest

      There are other problems that come with simulated gravity. Still, it's annoying that simulated gravity hasn't been studied in space on any significant scale since the Gemini program.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  57. Adam

    Creating artificial gravity is relatively easy. You do it by rotating part of the space craft to create centrifugal force equivalent to 1G on earth. This has it's own challenges (Gyroscopic effect when maneuvering, increased weight of the structure, and many others) but it is a simple way to deal with a whole host of problems that zero G creates for the human organism.

    February 10, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  58. Kitty27

    Farsighted – means you CAN see far away but NOT close
    Nearsighted – means you CAN see near, but NOT far
    please fix

    February 10, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Matthew

      Yeah, I caught that too

      February 10, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  59. beth

    First... "NEARsighted" means you can't see distance. And here on planet Earth (where I'm an optometrist), I see plenty of patients' glasses prescriptions shift over time. Some people have binocular vision or accommodative disorders that make them "falsely" nearsighted to begin with... and then as time goes on, and presbyopia sets in, these patients' prescriptions often shift to LESS myopic in the distance... again, this could be why he no longer needs distance correction. Whatever. This article is annoying me. I won't dispute that space travel probably does some pretty crazy stuff to your eyes and brain... or that papilledema and increased ICP won't screw with your vision... but still... I feel like they're missing a lot of information in this article.

    February 10, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • BOBBY

      Well am NOT AN OPTOM. but the artical clearly states there are changes to the optic nerve and retina......my guess is the optom. that are involved in this study for "NASA" I am sure forgot more about the eye than you know now......you don't know $h!t....and don't say "you aren't an Opt." bacause i also am not a rock star but that doesen't change the fact that I know KISS is a crappy band.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:55 am |
      • beth

        ... well that was incoherent.

        February 10, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
  60. wr

    "He used to be farsighted – he needed glasses for distance"

    CNN at its usual editorial best.

    February 10, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • BOBBY

      ya i caught that too.....far sighted means you can't see up close.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • adelie

      Yeah, I have never been able to understand why so many people get nearsighted and farsighted confused. Its exactly how it sounds nearsighted = can see clearly near : farsighted = can see clearly far. Why do people always want to think it is the other way around?

      February 10, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
  61. Sally

    Why are you referring to the men as "astronauts" and the women as "space travelers" and "space flyers"? They are all astronauts and have been doing the same jobs from commanding the space shuttle to mission specialists. This terminology undermines the accomplishments of these amazing women.

    February 10, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • Diane Pierce

      Right on, Sally! And why, if women aren't affected, isn't the space program considering a full female Astronaut team to do the initial travel? It's like saying we can't, when the obvious answer is that we can.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • dt

      Oh now come on Sally – women are sent to the space station to clean and cook. You need to start listening to Rick Santorum.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • VengefulTick

      Seriously?! Why do people feel the need to pick words/sentances apart like that? Does it matter that they are called a synonim for the same word? Astronaut, space flyer, space traveler...who cares, it's all the same thing. Stop, just stop.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  62. FauxNewz

    Wow, he got older and now needs reading glasses. Let's do a million dollar experiment on that, lol.

    February 10, 2012 at 10:54 am |
  63. Heather M.

    Obviously the best answer is an all female trip to Mars. Sign me up! ;0)

    February 10, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • Kat

      That was my first thought! I feel a little guilty that this article made me feel giddy that maybe space travel will be restricted to women only in the future. And if we ever get around to colonization, it would be more efficient to just have women go, and carry along frozen sperm/embryos.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:12 am |
      • reality50

        Absolutely – sign me up!!

        February 10, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  64. jpb

    The first trip to Mars will be one way-- so this eyesight stuff will not matter.

    February 10, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • checi

      We should fit Mars travelers with ROBOT eyes!!

      February 10, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  65. Anonymous

    It makes perfect sense that his brain adapted from being near-sighted to far sighted, seeing as he is in space and his eyes are looking at things that are hundreds of thousands to millions of miles away so frequently, rather than primarily seeing things just feet or inches away like you would on earth. This just shows that the brain changed in response to the environment.

    February 10, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • Szerin

      Not quite Anonymous. The effects were clearly physiological in nature, and a response to the altered environment (zero G) in which the male astronauts were living. So it was not an adaptation by the brain, but rather a physical change to the eye that caused the vision change. The time spent looking at distant objects versus nearby objects would not be no different in space than it is on earth. Have you ever looked at a distant opbject on earth, or looked at the stars at night? In fact, I would venture that quite the opposite is true. In an enclosed environment, most of their time is probably spent looking at instrumentation, reading, writing, interacting with colleagues, working on computers, and conducting experiments. These are all near focus events.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • George Campbell

      So you are thinking they spend the days looking out the window rather than working on experiments that are in near proximity? Surely you jest? Most of the space station is not windows. And most of their work is within feet of them as the space station's space is confined.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:41 am |
  66. Emilie Quast

    The author says the astronaut "used to be farsighted – he needed glasses for distance. But now, the space veteran says he’s eagle-eyed at long distance but needs glasses for reading. " The reporter has that confused. The astronaut used to be nearsighted (could see things close just fine but needed glasses for distance vision). He is now farsighted (needs classes to read but can see distance just fine). Let's get the basics down, please.

    February 10, 2012 at 10:49 am |
  67. Chris0369

    I wonder if the damage is related to the pressures of taking off and maybe the training required before going it space? For example the training that pilots go through to experience gravitational force?

    February 10, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • wr

      No. Read the article. It only affects long-term space travel, not short term. The lift-off is the same.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:06 am |
      • George Campbell

        Agreed. It also does not affect them during training as they do that all the time. It is not until they actually travel into space that this occurs.

        February 10, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  68. Annie

    Only women can go where no man has gone before. Sorry guys

    February 10, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • Bob836

      Without glasses.

      February 10, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  69. Robert

    While agree this is a problem, since it does not seem to effect females the solution for the flight to Mars is obvious. Mars needs Women!!! Sorry could not resist.

    February 10, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • zephyr2

      Good one! Too bad the movie is not as good as your sense of humor.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  70. angel611

    NASA keeps a lot secret to keep their funding. I talked to an astronaut. The eye issue is one of many. He said he was told that the men from the moon missions came back like 80 year old men. The "isolation trailer" was not for bacteria or disease from the moon, it was to hide the astronauts until they could recover from the moon flights. It is known in NASA that a trip to Mars will kill the astronauts since they will be away from earth too long. There is speculation that all life on earth gets some type of life energy from earth and when you get too far away, your body starts to die like a plant without sun. There will never be moon colonies or other space travel because the astronaugts will not survive. Nasa knows this of course. Now you know the REAL reason they stopped the moon program and did not start it again.

    February 10, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • Rubyleaf

      I think the tin foil on your hat has worn out, it's time to replace it. Also have you been taking your meds? Maybe its time to see your doctor about changing the dosage.

      February 10, 2012 at 10:42 am |
      • DB5


        February 10, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • Matt

      ... That was no astronaut you spoke to.

      February 10, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • Jen B

      If you did speak to an astronaut, he probably would have told you that a lot of those problems are due to lack of gravity. Without it not only do our bones and muscles atrophy, but it affects our circulation as well, often causing pressure builds up in the head or extremities because the capillary system is struggling with trying to disperse it normally throughout our bodies. Of course its also likely that there are also various kinds of atmospheric elements that also have yet to be replicated in spaceship cabin as well.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • Adam

      Whether or not this is true, I think anyone who is subject to zero G for a few weeks (or more) is going to feel like and move like a weak old man for a while when they get back to 1G.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • DB5

      "the men from the moon missions came back like 80 year old men"

      I noticed Buzz Aldrin had quite a right hook when question about the moon mission by a skeptic. No cane involved.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:17 am |
      • ben

        Its no wonder that Buzz got booted out of DWTS so soon. Had he not been an astronaut, he could have a chance, what do you guys think?

        February 10, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • Woody

      Yeah, the moon missions really shortened their life spans. 9 of the 12 moonwalkers are still alive. The last moon mission, Apollo 17, was late 1972, almost 40 years ago. Of the three that are deceased, one (Conrad) died as the result of a motorcycle accident, one (Irwin) died from heart related problems, and Alan Shepard died from leukemia. From what I've read, the surviving 9 are in pretty good health for men in their age group, the youngest being 76.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
      • Woody

        Incidentally, angel611, the astronauts weren't quarantined after Apollo 14. The guys getting out of the helicopter on the aircraft carrier deck from A15, A16, and A17, looked pretty much the way they looked when they left. The "astronaut" you talked to, really had your number.

        February 11, 2012 at 4:15 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Oh come on. You got back from Uranus ok didn't you?

      February 10, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Donna

      Ok did this guy tell you he was an astronaut before or after he asked you to go out to the parking lot with him?

      February 12, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  71. j

    "but it opens up profound questions on whether humans will ever venture to Mars or to an asteroid if they are unable to figure out how the outer space environment is affecting the eyes."

    Of course we will figure it out, science rules.

    February 10, 2012 at 10:35 am |
  72. Jenn

    Just a question for the author : why are men "astronauts" in this story, and female members of the space program are "space travellers?"
    They are all astronauts.

    February 10, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • Chris

      Because reusing a word too many times makes for poor style in writing, so you search for a synonym.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
  73. Dave

    Come on. Why aren't they focusing on developing artificial gravity. This has to be developed before any kind of deep space mission can take place.

    February 10, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • Dave

      why? Do you even know what creates gravity to begin with? sigh...

      February 10, 2012 at 10:34 am |
      • Brandon M.

        Yes, Dave, we do. Gravity is caused by gravitons, a sub-atomic particle.

        February 10, 2012 at 11:10 am |
      • Judas Priest

        "Gravity is caused by gravitons, a sub-atomic particle."

        Brandon M., this is simply not true. Gravitons are a theoretical particle, and have never been observed. In some theories, they are more of a "place holder" than an actual object that's expected to be discovered. Moreover, since the force of gravity is fundamentally very different from the other fundamental forces (electromagnetism, and strong & weak nuclear), it may not have a carrier or mediator particle at all.
        If you want to learn more, I would say the Wikipedia article is a good starting point. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graviton

        February 10, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • Matt

      People say that as though it was so easy. I mean, creating gravity is pretty easy – just need to create a force to hold things down. From an engineering standpoint, this is easy. The hard part is that gravity is a force, meaning every time something moves on the space ship, the ship will have to do work, and thus use up precious energy. Every time your blood moves, your lungs expand, the hot air rises, and the astronauts take steps that means more energy is required. Over a short time period, this energy isn't significant, but over a long journey, that's a huge amount of additional design work. If we can figure out how to safely move people in lower gravity, it will create a more efficient and easier to design space mission.

      February 10, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • DB5

      Has anyone seen 2001: A Space Odyssey? The Discovery One had a wheel that rotated to create the effect of gravity, thus eliminating weightless in certain parts of the ship. It made sense.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:23 am |
      • Judas Priest

        It does, to a good extent, but may not be a perfect solution. We already know that high enough RPM's in such a short radius can cause problems in and of themselves. However this begs the question: Why not experiment with larger "wheels", at different speeds? Would say a few hours, possibly during sleep, be beneficial while avoiding the disorientation and nausea? In short:
        We've got a frickin' space station, why are we not experimenting with this?

        February 10, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  74. Dave in FL

    "He used to be farsighted – he needed glasses for distance..."

    Oh really? Sounds like CNN should go back to letting the adults write this stuff instead of some stupid intern who doesn't know the difference between nearsighted and farsighted. Golly, perhaps even hire editors to review this stuff. Whatta concept!

    February 10, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  75. Pete

    I'm not saying this to be critical; I'm just stating a fact. Whenever you ask someone how far away some big thing like a mission to Mars is, almost every time, the answer is "20 years away."

    February 10, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  76. Steve

    The author needs to do his research before writing the article. Farsighted DOES NOT MEAN you need glasses to see at a distance...it means you have good vision for distant objects; just the opposite of what the author wrote!

    February 10, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • Howard

      I'm surprised there was no discussion of whether this phenomena may be related to the absence of gravity at the ISS. If that is the case, then the solution may be as simple as constructing a spacecraft in orbit that has provisions for providing artificial gravity.

      February 10, 2012 at 10:26 am |
      • Judas Priest

        It was clearly stated in the article that this was due to the absence of gravity on long-term space flights.
        As for artificial (or rather, simulated) gravity, there are some engineering hurdles to overcome.
        However, NASA seems to be uninterested in this. There were some tethered-spin experiments done in the Gemini program, I think some others were done aboard Skylab, but nothing on any scale or involving humans since then.
        I don't know why. Does anyone have more information?

        February 10, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • Bryan Green

      Yep– I usually find at least one mistake (either factual or grammatical) in every CNN article I read. The author reversed the definitions of far-sighted and near-sighted.

      February 10, 2012 at 10:29 am |
  77. Alex

    I guess NASA will have to send only women on long term space flights to address these vision problems!

    February 10, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  78. TheBossSaid

    "Female space travelers have not been affected" – Guess who will be the first to land on Mars.

    February 10, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • BucketDrop

      Exactly. Let's send the ladies. I guess the author of the book "Starship Troopers" had it right. Only women can pilot spacecraft over the long term 🙂

      February 10, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  79. david hawkins

    Dr. Ehni is one fine surgeon. May be the best around.

    February 10, 2012 at 10:15 am |
  80. capnjoe

    I wonder how it would affect transgender people, both female to male and male to female? Tests might show if this theroy of a man in a woman's body or a woman in a man's body is relivent at all.

    February 10, 2012 at 10:10 am |
  81. roger andes

    To the author of this article: I enjoy scientific articles like this one, but getting your terminology right is crucial in science: Farsighted means you see distant objects well, that you do not need glasses for distant objects. Thanks for a well-written piece regarding a serious problem (for men) with long-term space flight.

    February 10, 2012 at 10:08 am |
  82. PTC Bernie

    To Rich Phillips

    You may want to check your terminology, nearsighted vs farsighted. I think you have it backwards in the article.

    February 10, 2012 at 10:06 am |
  83. seattlite

    For deep space flight changes to the shape of the eye is a minor issue. The main problem is going to be that as soon as a spacecraft leaves the magnetic environment of the Earth it is exposed to massive amounts of radiation that cannot be shielded by any current technology. The astronauts on a year long mission to mars would not survive the radiation sickness. People should stay on the ground and let robots do the exploration.

    February 10, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • Ashley


      February 10, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • Mike Wiggins

      I also agree. In fact the next Mars Rover (Curiosity), that is currently en-route to the red planet as we "speak", is testing that concept. It has sensors buried deep in the rover that will measure how much radiation makes it through the rover during its cruise to Mars. It's meant to determine whether astronauts have a chance of surviving the trip.

      If the test fails, that doesn't mean we'll never go there. What is DOES mean is that we have to re-think the design of the spacecraft (e.g. centrifugal craft with water in outer tanks) and even how to get there (e.g. send advance drone craft to leave supplies on the surface, etc.).

      We'll make it there! It just won't be in MY lifetime!

      February 10, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  84. Jason James

    So looks like there will be a womans only training academy for Starfleet Officers. Who'd of thunk it?

    February 10, 2012 at 10:03 am |
  85. Badly-Bent

    It would be interesting to know if artificial gravity in the form of centrifugal force eliminates this problem?

    February 10, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • Giri

      Good thought but to get earth-like gravity you need either a very large cetrifuge or higher (than comfortable to humans) speed. Imagine being in a 6 month long ride in a horizontal ferris wheel!

      February 10, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  86. Bart

    "He used to be farsighted – he needed glasses for distance" & "he needed eye glasses for distance."

    You got this backwards, he was near sighted before, in that he could see near objects but needed glasses to see far off. Farsightedness is greater difficulty seeing near objects than distant objects. Nearsighted is having no problems seeing things up close but you have trouble seeing things that are far away,

    So, to sum up, the man was near sighted before space (needed glasses to see far off), and he's far sighted now, because he sees far off fine, but now needs glasses to see up close. I've been near sighted for years, see fine up close but can't see at a distance without glasses.

    February 10, 2012 at 9:59 am |
  87. PK

    Rod – get over it. The "Belief page" is and should be a part of the CNN panoply of opinion and topical pages.

    With the exception of the obvious error in the definition of "farsightedness", editors please?? The article gave me something to think about that had not occurred to me before. I had been aware of bone density decreases, but this is an obvious, and I'll say – unexpected to me – consequence of long duration stays in micro-gravity. Interesting.

    There are, of course, other perils of travel outside of earth's magnetosphere that may be more catastrophic to human life and so ships containing humans for long duration space flight will need to consider: solar wind, radiation exposure and other life threatening hazards.

    For those of us who grew up reading and watching SciFi – harsh reality is sometimes too much cold water in the face.

    February 10, 2012 at 9:58 am |
  88. James PDX

    Just get working on creating artificial gravity. DUH!

    February 10, 2012 at 9:58 am |
  89. john hillman

    Most people start needing reading glasses at age 40. The lens becomes less able to change the shape needed to see well up close.

    This seems to be "busy" work for NASA.

    February 10, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • AngieS

      Have to disagree on that one. Studying this phenomenon is actually very important because if this kind of pressure is building up on the optic nerve and causing physiological changes to the astronaut how much more pressure might build up in the astronaut's brain over a period of years and what kind of changes might it effect or damage might it do. We could end up sending men into space on long-term missions only to have them literally lose their minds half-way there becoming incapable of completing the mission and maybe even endangering their fellow astronauts. Really, not busy work for NASA, but a problem that I think can be overcome with study and advancing technology.

      February 10, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • SB

      Clearly you did not understand the article.

      February 11, 2012 at 1:31 am |
  90. BigRed

    Remember what mom used to say? "Keep messing with that thing and you'll go blind." How about the theory that no relations with females in space makes a man go blind? Funny that females don't suffer from the same malady.

    February 10, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  91. TAK

    I wonder if it's zero-G causing this or if it's really low air pressure. If I'm not mistaken, spacecraft are pressurized to only 5 psi, instead of the 15 psi we have at sea level.

    And has anyone asked the Russians for input? They've been making long duration flights longer than we have.

    February 10, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  92. fairfax

    They have nearsighted and farsighted backwards in this article. I'm extremely nearsighted. Perhaps a trip to space for a few months would help me!

    February 10, 2012 at 9:54 am |
  93. The final frontier

    How about producing artificial gravity? Do this and then you dont need to address the infinite issues with no gravity.

    February 10, 2012 at 9:54 am |
  94. MadCityBabe

    if you're farsighted you dont need glasses to see far away...............if you're nearsighted you need glasses to see far away.....get it right

    February 10, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  95. Rod

    Im so glad to see that CNN has continued their "Light Years" section. I commend CNN for putting out scientifically themed articles that are I"m sure not as popular as some of the more sensational stuff out there but nevertheless important.

    On that note, if CNN wanted to take another step in the right direction they should remove the ridiculous and non-news based section, "Belief". When I read Light Years I'm always astounded that this is the same network that does articles on how whether some kid on you tube is an atheist.

    Keep up articles like this. Fantastic.


    February 10, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • willy

      I suppose they want to reach a broader audience as opposed to reaching people of one belief or another. CNN is a business.

      February 10, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • Kyle

      Why can't the spiritual have their own section?
      And more importantly, why can't both concepts exist in your mind without dissonance?

      February 10, 2012 at 10:26 am |
      • Kat

        What bothers me about the Belief blog is they let people who disavow science write for it. Faith and science can co-exist, but they never seem to choose writers who allow for that. Granted though, it does seem to reflect the broader public view, but it's kind of sad.

        February 10, 2012 at 11:20 am |
      • NSL

        Wow, did you ever say a mouthful in your concise reply.

        I am constantly mystified by folks who can't see the reality of science and belief, and can't understand how they are intertwined, not mutually exclusive and whether together or separate, are valid. I am especially mystified by evolution science deniers who claim its contrary to how the creation of the earth as described in the Bible came about. Most of these people have no idea of what evolution science is all about, nor what a scientific theory is, but follow without question the misinformation and outright lies of others.

        I had a long conversation, many years ago, with a Jesuit priest who described it to me this way. Evolution is the method God used to create the earth, its flora and fauna, and humanity. I think that says it all quite well.

        February 10, 2012 at 11:47 am |
      • WhatWhatWhat?

        Those concepts are mutually exclusive, if you haven't figured it out by now. 14 billion years compared to 6000, creation vs. evolution, god vs. nature. Where have you been hiding?

        February 10, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • NSL

      It is extremely rare that I agree with the "Belief" articles at CNN, but I often find them interesting and sometimes thought provoking. There's nothing wrong and a lot that's extremely right about having opinion as part of a news organization's output, as long as it's clear it's opinion, and CNN does make that clear. Of course, I must admit that as a travel columnist who writes opinion for part of my living (Not at CNN) I do have a prejudice toward this kind of article being included. I don't think we want just news from our news outlets. Opinion pieces are important as the good ones are thought provoking, getting people's minds working and thinking, perhaps, and hopefully, about the world around them in new ways, and to reexamine prior conclusions which may no longer apply as the world evolves.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:33 am |
  96. Darby

    Wrong. If you need glasses for distance you are NEAR sighted, not far sighted.

    February 10, 2012 at 9:43 am |
  97. thephoenix

    Isn't it obvious?!?! A woman's brain is smaller therefore there is more room in the skull and as a result there is less pressure. However in a few years they will discover that space travel causes heart problems and that will affect women, but not men.

    February 10, 2012 at 9:43 am |
  98. trogdor


    February 10, 2012 at 9:40 am |
  99. Randy

    Looks like the first human on Mars will be a woman. Who would have thought.

    February 10, 2012 at 9:37 am |
    • irl

      I lol'd.

      February 10, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
    • That May be the key

      All space travelers in the future may need to be sterile...you cannot breed through space so it's actually not a bad idea for women and men to split up in space travel...

      February 11, 2012 at 1:44 am |
      • Chris

        Correction, it is unknown whether or not it is safe to breed in Space. Recent research and experimentation with worms breeding in Space has yielded encouraging results though.

        February 11, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
      • bman

        Folks talking about doing x in space when they should say doing x in a weightless medium. To say a space environment is lacking in G forces is innacurate and actually just dumb. What you should say is that currently engineers do not build space vehicles on a large enough scale to accomodate humans. I would like to use the words space habitats in that last sentence, but this article clearly illustrates that humans have yet to build a habitat in space fit for human occupancy.

        February 11, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
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