“there was im­me­di­ate pain, but there was also blurred vi­sion”

Nor­man E Tha­gard feared for his sight when a freak accident af­fected one of his eyes on board the Rus­sian space sta­tion Mir

All About Space - - Most Dangerous Missions -

What hap­pened?

Re­search as­tro­naut Nor­man E Tha­gard was per­form­ing deep knee-bend ex­er­cises when an elas­tic foot strap slipped away and ended up slap­ping him in his right eye, caus­ing him great pain when­ever he saw light.

What mis­sion were they on?

Tha­gard was on the Soyuz TM-21 mis­sion which launched on 14 March 1995. “I was a crew mem­ber for the Rus­sian Mir EO-18 mis­sion and I had gone to the space sta­tion aboard Soyuz with com­man­der Vladimir Dezhurov and Gen­nady Strekalov. It was my fifth space­flight in a space ca­reer that be­gan in Jan­uary 1978 when I was se­lected as an as­tro­naut can­di­date. I had first flown with the crew of STS-7 which launched from the Kennedy Space Cen­ter in Florida on 18 June 1983. My mis­sion in 1995 was to be my last.

“I am writ­ing a book about my Mir ex­pe­ri­ences which will be based on the diary I kept while on board, but with­out re­fer­ring to that, I re­call there be­ing ‘ex­panderee‘ on board the space sta­tion.

This is a Rus­sian term for stretch­able ca­bles that re­quired strength to ex­pand. They are some­times seen in gyms for repet­i­tive stretch­ing ex­er­cises to build or main­tain mus­cle strength and one such piece of gym equip­ment was long enough to stretch from one foot up to and around the back of the neck, over the shoul­ders and down to the other foot, with each foot in­serted into a stir­rup.

“I used this ca­ble to per­form repet­i­tive deep knee bends which is es­sen­tially a full squat strength­train­ing ex­er­cise that can burn fat and in­crease flex­i­bil­ity. While en­gaged in this ac­tiv­ity dur­ing one of my sched­uled ex­er­cise pe­ri­ods, the stir­rup slipped off one of my feet and, be­cause I was al­most ‘stand­ing’ (remember I was work­ing in a zero-g en­vi­ron­ment), the ca­ble was on the stretch. This meant that it was un­der a con­sid­er­able amount of ten­sion.

“Due to this ten­sion, when the stir­rup slipped off my foot, it flew off at high speed. Within a split se­cond it had struck me in the right eye. As you can imag­ine there was im­me­di­ate pain, but there was also blurred vi­sion in that eye. Later on, I no­ticed pho­to­pho­bia – a symp­tom of ab­nor­mal in­tol­er­ance to vis­ual per­cep­tion of light that causes dis­com­fort or pain due to light ex­po­sure. This hap­pened even with low-in­ten­sity light.

“Since I am a physi­cian, I tried to use a mir­ror to per­form an eye ex­am­i­na­tion on my­self but I could not iden­tify any sign of in­jury. The pain was in­tense so I used anaes­thetic eye drops in the af­fected eye and then I patched it to avoid any fur­ther in­ad­ver­tent in­jury to the de­sen­si­tised eye. I told Strekalov what had hap­pened and he joked, “Oh, yes. Those things are dan­ger­ous. That's why I don't use them.” “Thanks, Gen­nady, for the heads-up on that one,” I re­sponded.

“I was able to get a con­sul­ta­tion with a Rus­sian oph­thal­mol­o­gist at Mis­sion Con­trol, Moscow and I fol­lowed his rec­om­mended ac­tion, but the eye did not seem to im­prove. Af­ter a day or two, the oph­thal­mol­o­gist decided the in­jury was likely a corneal abra­sion and rec­om­mended new treat­ment. I ap­plied steroid drops, which the space sta­tion had read­ily avail­able, and the in­jury then seemed to quickly re­solve and get back to nor­mal.

“Af­ter the mis­sion, how­ever, one of the NASA eye doc­tors sug­gested that the in­jury may have ac­cel­er­ated the progress of the cataract in the lens of my right eye. I am not an oph­thal­mol­o­gist and I did not re­search the pos­si­bil­ity that the in­jury could have af­fected the cataract, but it is true that the right lens re­quired re­place­ment more than three years be­fore the left eye's lens.”

“The in­jury may have ac­cel­er­ated the cataract in my right eye” Nor­man tha­gard

Nor­man E Tha­gard per­forms a med­i­cal ex­per­i­ment dur­ing his first flight in

1983 – luck­ily his eyes were cov­ered then!

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.