Questions for ‘Here’s how a new sleeping bag could protect astronauts’ eyesight’

a photo of a man sleeping on a hospital bed, his lower half is encased in a cone

Study co-author James Leidner, a medical doctor, spent three nights in this high-tech sleeping bag. The invention eases pressure that can be caused by a fluid buildup behind the eyes. During long space flights, that pressure can lead to vision problems.

UT Southwestern Medical Center

To accompany Here’s how a new sleeping bag could protect astronauts’ eyesight


Before Reading:

  1. Try this: Bend at your waist and reach for your toes from a standing position. Your head should be as close to upside-down as possible. If necessary, you can do this exercise from a sitting position. Hold this position for 20 seconds or so. Notice any changes in the way your head feels. Afterward, briefly describe those feelings and changes. How might gravity play a role in those changes? Take a guess, what type of changes might be taking place in your body as you hang upside-down?
  2. How does the vision of a “far-sighted” person differ from normal? First, do a quick internet search for how eyeball shape relates to far-sightedness. Then, sketch a normal-sighted eyeball and a far-sighted eyeball. Add a caption to pinpoint the difference in eyeball shape. How might the vision of a “near-sighted” person differ from normal? Based on your research into far-sightedness, how might eyeball shape cause someone to be near-sighted?

During Reading:

  1. In one sentence, explain the pressure-related problem this new invention aims to fix. What is the acronym for this problem? What do the acronym’s letters stand for?
  2. How do changes in gravity lead to this problem?
  3. What is a neuro-ophthalmologist? 
  4. Why would sucking the air out of a regular sleeping bag not work to avoid this problem? Identify one structural difference between the new astronaut sleeping bag and a traditional one. 
  5. What does CVP stand for? According to this story, what can cause CVP to be high? 
  6. According to the scientists in this article, what is an example of a future study needed before astronauts can use this innovation?

After Reading:

  1. Astronauts usually drink liquids from a bag with a straw inserted — like a Capri Sun. Why don’t astronauts drink from regular drinking glasses? Some of our body’s organs contain pockets for liquid. Our stomach is one example. How might our stomach liquid behave differently in space versus here on Earth? Astronaut burps have a special name — “wet burps.” How might a “wet burp” differ from a normal Earth-burp? How might microgravity cause burps to be “wet?”
  2. When was the last time you rode a rotating fair ride or a plummeting roller coaster? If your answer is “never,” think instead of the feeling of riding a car that accelerates quickly. Describe the physical sensations. Now think about fighter planes at an air show, either on video or in real life. Consider some of the maneuvers these planes carry out. What types of maneuvers might cause fighter pilots to feel like you do when riding a roller coaster? Having had certain eye surgeries can disqualify a person from being an Air Force fighter pilot — especially eye surgeries that weaken parts of the eye. Based on what you’ve read in this story, provide a possible reason for that concern.