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Next-gen capsule for deep space travel.

Astronaut eye problem focus of new devices

NASA wants US company Web Vision Technologies to engineer two specialist eye test devices so it can send astronauts on distant expeditions.

Long duration spaceflight causes major vision problems for some astronauts, a condition called Spaceflight-Associated Neuro-ocular Syndrome (SANS). It’s part of the experience the human body suffers in the microgravity environment of space.

Several ocular and vision tests are performed onboard the International Space Station with conventional vision testing devices, however, the equipment is not designed for the rigors of spaceflight and can break down due to radiation.

Most current devices are also too large for smaller spacecraft that will be used for deep space missions in the future. NASA sees SANS as a major hurdle it needs to clear before sending astronauts on longer excursions.

Funded with two grants from the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH), Salt Lake City-based company Web Vision Technologies will develop two specialist devices for NASA.

The first device, in its second phase of development, is a compact, self-imaging retinal camera that would allow astronauts to scan their retina so doctors on the ground can assess for SANS and monitor progression.

The second device is a specially designed goggle-based headset, allowing astronauts to test the functionality of their visual field, along with other vision tests.

Web Vision, which was only established in 2010, plans to commercialise the devices and other vision care technologies soon. The company is finalising its market strategy and raising funds for the launch.

“We are excited to be working with NASA on these two very important vision testing devices,” Web Vision Technologies CEO Mr Bob Main said.

“We are confident that the team we have put together will be able to deliver the technology that NASA needs to help monitor and find a solution to the SANS vision issue affecting astronauts on long duration flights. We are also grateful to TRISH for supplying the funding necessary to develop this technology.”

Carl Zeiss

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