Technology is improving, and as it does, the way people vacation does as well. In fact, many people believe that holidaymakers will soon be able to take a getaway to outer space. Unfortunately, this might be relativity further away than people may believe. This is not because the technology isn’t ready but because of the health concerns that are associated with travelling to outer space.
NASA and other space programs across the world have already learned that spending an extended period of time in outer space can cause eye problems. Most notably, many astronauts come back with short-sightedness. To study this, the European Space Agency is sending astronaut Tim Peake into space as a test subject.
Peake will spend the next six months at the International Space Station. The whole goal of this expedition is to see why astronauts that spend a lot of time in outer space come back with permanently deformed eyes. Right now, it is believed that exposure to a weightless environment causes this. Scientists believe that after spending so long in a weightless environment, the eyeball starts to change space, which affects a person’s vision.
When this problem was first discovered, scientists believed that the problem would fix itself once the astronauts returned back to normal gravity. However, long-term studies show that this does not happen. In fact, the damage to the eyes seems permanent. Scientists also do not know if it occurs only when spending an extended period of time in space or if it can happen after multiple trips.
In here lies the problem for casual space travel. If the eye deformation can occur after taking multiple trips to space, then it would be unsafe for the average person to spend a few weekends in space here and there. NASA said that nearly 30 percent of all of the astronauts that visited the International Space Station, regardless of how long they stayed, experienced some kind of problem with their eyesight.
Scientists at NASA’s Johnson Space Center have done a study already on astronauts who are suffering from what they call microgravity ocular syndrome. They have found so far that this is a very common eyesight problem that occurs in astronauts who travel to outer space. The study shows that the problem is with a thickening of the optic nerve sheath and the optic disc oedema.
Peake says that this shift in vision is one of the top things that researchers want to learn about. Before people can spend any kind of meaningful time in outer space, researchers have to discover just what is causing this and if it can be prevented. It is currently believed that the increase in the pressure of travelling to outer space may be flattening the back of the retina. For some people, the retina is retaining that shape even when returning back home. This is causing a permanent shift in vision.