Astronaut Eye Exposure to Microgravity, to Radiation and to Lighting

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J. R. Cain (2020), JBIS, 73, pp.390-396

Refcode: 2020.73.390
Keywords: Microgravity, Intracranial pressure, Spaceflight Associated Neuro-ocular Syndrome, Radiation, Light flashes,

This paper provides an update on the physiological changes to the eye due to weightlessness, radiation and to using artificial lighting; exposure results in elevated intracranial pressure (ICP), retinal light flashes (LFs) and glare respectively. The multifaceted health effects due to microgravity are known as “Spaceflight Associated Neuro-ocular Syndrome” (SANS) and they are discussed. The symptoms become more severe during long-term exposure for example, as on the International Space Station (ISS). The need for effective mechanical countermeasures to mitigate the effects of exposure to microgravity, to radiation and to artificial lighting are also discussed. To reduce the effects of weightlessness, the use of centrifugal force, the wearing of specific “swimming” goggles, providing training regimes and the monitoring of carbon dioxide levels in cabins may be used. Exposure to cosmic radiation is then discussed. Exposure can cause retinal LFs. Continual exposure to the radiation may lead to visual impairment and subsequent long-term eye damage. The measures to reduce exposure to radiation exposure such as the use of effective shielding are outlined. The provision of adequate radiation shelters and the wearing of specific body shielding can reduce the effects of radiation exposure. To reduce the health effects associated with artificial lighting such as glare, headaches, migraines and disturbed sleep patterns, the lighting systems installed must be suitable. Ideally, this will require the use of effective lighting such as solid-state light assemblies (SSLAs) to replace the use of light emitting diodes (LEDs). The undertaking of light mapping and the measuring of material reflective characteristics in select areas of a spacecraft are necessary to determine the type of effective lighting that will be needed to reduce the health effects. These issues are discussed.

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