Why NASA’s Mars astronauts may need to sleep in suction bags


A brand new examine from UT Southwestern Medical Heart sheds gentle on an eye fixed situation that impacts astronauts in house, in addition to a novel “sleeping bag” that makes use of suction know-how to mitigate the issue. The innovation, which resembles a cone-shaped machine, is designed to drag fluid away from an astronaut’s head once they sleep, stopping fluid from damaging eye constructions.

UT Southwestern Medical Heart

The issue

Area is difficult on the physique, which is why NASA and quite a few different entities have spent substantial quantities of effort and time to higher perceive the consequences (through USRA). Quite a lot of applied sciences are already in place on the Worldwide Area Station that helps astronauts mitigate a few of the well being points that end result from dwelling in a microgravity setting, together with train tools (through NASA).

Astronauts are required to have good imaginative and prescient, however over time, NASA seen their eyesight had worsened after returning to Earth following time spent dwelling on the ISS. The house company tapped UT Southwestern to check the basis reason behind the issue and develop a technique to forestall it altogether. The outcomes have been lately printed in JAMA Opthalmology, revealing that fluid build-up within the head might injury delicate eye constructions over comparatively quick intervals of time.

Swollen eye medical illustration

UT Southwestern Medical Heart

Put merely, fluid naturally travels to at least one’s head whereas mendacity down, however gravity ensures it doesn’t keep there as soon as an individual will get up within the morning and begins their day. Issues are completely different on the ISS, nonetheless, the place astronauts float round in a microgravity setting.

The dearth of gravity means fluid can construct up in an astronaut’s head however gained’t naturally movement away from it in a while. This phenomenon can result in a spaceflight-related imaginative and prescient dysfunction referred to as neuro-ocular syndrome (SANS), based on UT Southwestern, which describes it as a “progressive flattening” of an astronaut’s eyes.

The optic nerve, researchers discovered, will swell over time as a result of this fluid stress, resulting in gradual imaginative and prescient injury. A number of NASA astronauts have skilled imaginative and prescient adjustments after spending no less than half a yr on the ISS, a few of which have been substantial sufficient to impression their potential to carry out experiments and browse supplies whereas in house.

The researchers say the fluid adjustments might also result in different well being issues over time, together with some that haven’t been recognized but. Luckily, nonetheless, no less than some SANS imaginative and prescient adjustments return might return to regular as soon as the astronauts return to Earth.

Sleeping bag resolution

The answer to this fluid build-up drawback could also be a specially-designed sleeping bag, based on UT Southwestern, which has teamed up with REI, a retailer that sells outside tools. The house improve concerned constructing a stable body for the sleeping bag; when in use, the body matches across the astronaut’s waist. The sleeping bag capsule is sealed and vacuum know-how is used to attract fluid from the pinnacle, relieving stress on the mind and eyes.

A number of individuals examined the know-how, together with the college’s Dr. James Leidner. The experiment concerned spending lengthy intervals of time mendacity flat in mattress in order that fluid might construct up within the participant’s head, then spending eight hours at night time sleeping within the distinctive bag.

NASA nonetheless wants some solutions concerning the promising know-how, together with how a lot time astronauts ought to spend utilizing it to stop fluid-related issues. Nonetheless, the innovation might someday be used as a part of the usual tools included in spaceflight, notably for future long-term manned missions to Mars.

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