Having evolved under the pressure of Earth’s gravity, it isn’t surprising that our bodies experience adverse physiological affects after long periods in low-Earth orbit. NASA hopes that a new experiment, the Fluid Shifts investigation, set to launch to the ISS later this year, will shed light on the causes of vision loss and deformation of the structure to the eye often suffered by astronauts over the course of a stay aboard the ISS.
Some 60 percent of the human body is made up of fluids, and they do not behave in the usual way when subjected to the microgravity environment on board the ISS. This unusual fluid shift brings on a condition known as visual impairment and intracranial pressure (VIIP) syndrome, which leads to fluid building up in an astronaut’s brain and warping to the structure of the eye. The condition is documented to have affected roughly half of all astronauts to have journeyed beyond the protective shell of Earth’s atmosphere.
“Our first aim is to assess the shift in fluids, to see where fluids go and how the shift varies in different individuals,” says principal investigator Michael B. Stenger of the Wyle Science Technology and Engineering Group. “Our second goal is to correlate fluid movement with changes in vision, the structure of the eye, and other elements of VIIP syndrome.”
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