Finally, a life-saving sleeping bag!
Being an astronaut demands excellent 20/20 vision, yet the impacts of space can cause astronauts’ eyesight to deteriorate, causing them to return to Earth with impaired vision. Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center have created a sleeping sack that can avoid or decrease these issues by sucking fluid out of astronauts’ brains.
More than half of NASA astronauts who spent more than six months on the International Space Station (ISS) had visual impairments of various severity. According to the BBC, astronaut John Philips returned from a six-month mission on the International Space Station in 2005 with his vision diminished from 20/20 to 20/100.
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This might be a problem for multi-year missions to Mars, for example. Dr. Benjamin Levine, the principal researcher, told the BBC that “it would be a tragedy if astronauts had such severe impairments that they couldn’t see what they’re doing and it undermined the mission.”
When you sleep, fluids tend to gather in your brain, but when you wake up on Earth, gravity draws them back down into your body. In space, however, more than a half-gallon of fluid gathers in the head due to the low gravity. This causes flattening of the eyeball, which can lead to visual impairment – a condition known as a spaceflight-associated neuro-ocular syndrome, or SANS.
To counteract SANS, researchers teamed up with REI, an outdoor gear company, to create a sleeping bag that wraps around the waist and encloses the lower torso. A suction device, similar to that of a vacuum cleaner, is then triggered, drawing fluid toward the feet and preventing it from pooling in the head.
A group of approximately a dozen volunteers volunteered to test the gadget, and the findings were positive. Certain problems must be addressed before NASA installs the technology on the ISS, such as how much time astronauts should spend in the sleeping bag each day.