Prolonged exposure to zero gravity can be particularly hard on the eyes. Astronaut crew have experienced hyperopic shifts, globe flattening, choroidal folds and optic disc edema. Spaceflight-Associated Neuro-ocular Syndrome, or SANS, refers to these vision-related issues that can affect the human body during long-duration spaceflight – where good vision is critical to a successful mission.
Because of these potential problems, optical testing and monitoring is essential. However, current off-the-shelf technology being used on the International Space Station to monitor eye health is bulky, provides inconsistent images and requires two astronauts to operate. Additionally, dilation of the pupils can incapacitate an astronaut for a few hours after each examination.
There’s clear need for a multifunctional optomic device (MOD) that would be more compact and user friendly, while producing accurate retinal images in order to better monitor crew eye health.
Web Vision developed an advanced retinal imager (ARI) that is portable, easier-to-use and more compact than current devices. A single astronaut can administer the customizable retinal testing, sending images of their retina to doctors on Earth who can look for signs of SANS and monitor its progress.
Future Of Space Health
This next-generation retinal imager reduces the operational challenges of monitoring vision during spaceflight. The ARI auto-imaging capability saves crew and ground support time because a second crewmember is not required for examinations and remote guidance instruction from mission control is not required.
The ARI eliminates the need to dilate pupils, so that retinal imaging examinations can be scheduled throughout the crew day. The ARI software includes artificial intelligence capabilities. When fully matured, this could eliminate the need for review from Earth-based vision experts, making the system autonomous. This advanced technology is solving a “show-stopper” challenge that will support NASA’s mission to Mars by protecting the vision of crew on deep space explorations.