Orbit Optic Comfort

SES, 10 February 2022

Astronauts must deal with many negative physical effects when travelling into space, including potential changes in shape of the heart, bone mass loss, muscle fibre shrinkage and flattened eyeballs and swollen optic nerves.

This is why 49% of long-flight astronauts report experiencing vision problems after they arrive back on Earth. Thankfully there may be a solution on the way. No, it’s not a pill, robot or workout routine. Instead, it’s a high-tech, vacuum-creating sleeping bag.

The last two effects are particularly interesting to ophthalmologists. Back in 2011 a study published in the journal the American Academy of Ophthalmology stated that spending more than six months in space can have a negative impact on both short and long-term vision.

This is due to how body fluids accumulate in the head during space flight, which puts pressure on the eyeballs. The condition is called spaceflight-associated neuro-ocular syndrome.

Scientists at the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center have now created a sleeping bag to help combat this syndrome. The bag creates a vacuum at the base, ensuring fluid is drawn away from the head and relieving pressure on the eye.

It’s the type of technology that will be helpful in meeting the rigorous demands of travelling longer distances in space in the future, such as to Mars.