A Minneapolis ophthalmologist has been named to a NASA “dream team” of eye doctors to solve a vexing question about human space exploration.
Before sending space travelers on a 500-day flight to Mars, NASA needs Dr. Richard Lindstrom of Minnesota Eye Consultants and nine other U.S. experts to come up with solutions to why astronauts suffer severe vision problems after long tours in space. The zero (or micro) gravity environment of space appears to increase spinal-fluid pressure on the head and eyes.
Lindstrom said he was “honored and humbled” by the assignment: “If we cannot solve the vision problems associated with long term space travel in a microgravity environment, the Mission to Mars will not happen.”
The eye specialists have time on their side; a Mars exploration isn’t expected until at least 2030.
But astronauts have already suffered ocular degeneration and vision problems after tours of three- to six-months on the International Space Station. Complications have included a flattening of the eyeballs and a swelling of the optic nerve, the cord that carries visual information from the eye to the brain.
One NASA survey indicated that as many as two-thirds of the astronauts serving extending tours on the Space Station eventually experienced blurred vision.
Lindstrom is the founder of Minnesota Eye Consultants, a former University of Minnesota researcher and a co-inventor listed on 30 patents for eye solutions, intraocular lenses, surgical instruments and other commonly used ophthalmology technology.
He hopes his 40 years of problem-solving in ophthalmology can help the team find a solution, because the alternative might be “no trip to Mars and potential sight loss … for astronauts on the Space Station for three months or more.”