Vision & Microgravity...Can We See the Connection?

What do nutrition and genetics have in common? They could all be linked to vision problems experienced by some astronauts. We see people going up to space with perfect vision, but need glasses when the return home to Earth.

Why Does This Study Matter?

We want to be able to send astronauts to Mars, but losing vision capability along the way is a BIG problem. Discovering the cause and possible treatments or preventions will help us safely send astronauts deeper into space than ever before. 

It’s Like Solving a Mystery

We already have an idea of why vision changes occur, but the real mystery remains…why do some astronauts have these issues, and other’s don’t?

Now, let’s break it down:

Nutrition is more than just what you eat. It includes how those things work inside your body. The biochemistry behind how your muscles make energy, how your brain utilizes glucose and how vitamins help with biochemical functions…it’s all part of nutrition.

Genetics also play a part in the vision changes we’re seeing in space. Data shows that there are differences in blood chemistry between astronauts that had vision issues and those that did not. We found that individuals with vision issues had different blood chemistries even before their flight to space. That means that some astronauts could be predisposed to vision issues in space.

Just in January 2016, scientists discovered this possible link between genetics, nutrition and vision changes in astronauts. It makes it clear that the vision problem is WAY more complex than we initially thought. 

While we still don’t know exactly what is causing the vision issues, we are able to narrow down who to study, and refine our research. This will help find the cause, and hopefully lead to treatment and prevention of these problems.

Fluid Shifts

The weightless environment of space also causes fluid shifts to occur in the body. This normal shift of fluids to the upper body in space causes increased inter-cranial pressure which could be reducing visual capacity in astronauts. We are currently testing how this can be counteracted by returning fluids to the lower body using a “lower body negative pressure” suit, also known as Chibis.

Benefits on Earth

Research in this area has also suggested that there may be similarities between astronaut data and individuals with a clinical syndrome affecting 10-20% of women, known as polycystic ovary syndrome. Studying this group may provide a way to better understand vision and cardiovascular system effects, which could also advance treatment and prevention for both astronauts and humans on Earth with this disease.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com

Today we announced big news about the Apollo 11 Command Module at our National Air and Space Museum. 

When our 3D team scanned the object, they found a set of markings that hadn’t been seen in the nearly 50 years since the historic moon landing—a discovery of astronaut graffiti. 

It includes some notes, figures and a hand-drawn calendar likely created by the crew during flight. 

An interactive 3D model, which you’ll be able to print, will be available at 3d.si.edu in June. To tide you over until then, you can see a preview in the video above. 

Read the latest chapter on this living artifact here. 

youtube

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day 2016 February 12 

Two Black Holes Merge 

Just press play to watch two black holes merge. Inspired by the first direct detection of gravitational waves by LIGO, this simulation video plays in slow motion but would take about one third of a second if run in real time. Set on a cosmic stage the black holes are posed in front of stars, gas, and dust. Their extreme gravity lenses the light from behind them into Einstein rings as they spiral closer and finally merge into one. The otherwise invisible gravitational waves generated as the massive objects rapidly coalesce cause the visible image to ripple and slosh both inside and outside the Einstein rings even after the black holes have merged. 

Dubbed GW150914, the gravitational waves detected by LIGO are consistent with the merger of 36 and 29 solar mass black holes at a distance of 1.3 billion light-years. The final, single black hole has 62 times the mass of the Sun, with the remaining 3 solar masses converted into energy in gravitational waves.

csr.utexas.edu
NASA SEES High School Summer Internship Program
NASA, Texas Space Grant Consortium, and The University of Texas at Austin Center for Space Research Summer Intern Program is a nationally competitive STEM program for high school students. The program provides selected interns with exposure to Earth and space research. Interns will learn how to interpret NASA satellite data while working with scientists and engineers in their chosen area of work.

(did I hear of another STEM summer program? YEP!)

DEADLINE IS MARCH 20TH 2016 

NASA summer internship for High Schoolers in grades 10 and 11!

Eligible students must be:

  • American High School students in 10th and 11th grade
  • passionate about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math

Things you will need in your application (besides providing general information about yourself)

  • A letter of recommendation from a school principal, curriculum coordinator, school counselor, science teacher or mentor 
  • A short introduction video telling us who you are, where you are from, and why you are interested in becoming a NASA high school intern.
  • Your high school transcript in PDF form
  • An essay (maximum 1000 words) on covering at least the 4 topics provided (meaning you must touch on every topic and then anything else you think is important to talk about) in PDF form

(I could not tell if the deadline is March 19th at 11:59PM or March 20th at 11:59PM, or what time zone, so I suggest submitting the application a few days early!)

Stars at the Galactic Center
Credit: Susan Stolovy (SSC/Caltech) et al., JPL-Caltech, NASA

Explanation: The center of our Milky Way Galaxy is hidden from the prying eyes of optical telescopes by clouds of obscuring dust and gas. But in this stunning vista, the Spitzer Space Telescope’s infrared cameras, penetrate much of the dust revealing the stars of the crowded galactic center region. A mosaic of many smaller snapshots, the detailed, false-color image shows older, cool stars in bluish hues. Reddish glowing dust clouds are associated with young, hot stars in stellar nurseries. The very center of the Milky Way was only recently found capable of forming newborn stars. The galactic center lies some 26,000 light-years away, toward the constellation Sagittarius. At that distance, this picture spans about 900 light-years.