Giant leaps

The lessons we continue to learn from the final frontier


It is hard not to be a bit obsessed with space, and the science to understand it. From the work of ancient Babylonian and Egyptian astronomy, which developed systems that became the basis for breakthroughs made by Aristotle and his fellow Greek astronomers, to Copernicus and his planetary observations that suggested it was the sun and not the earth that was at the centre of the solar system, our understanding of space continues to both fascinate and evolve.

OT got to ‘talk space’ last week, covering news about the relationship between body weight and the development of ocular changes in space. The new research, which was published in the American Journal of Physiology, found that astronauts with higher weight, waist and chest circumference measurements were more likely to develop disc oedema or choroidal folds.

We also had an update from the clever team at Heidelberg Engineering, who have announced that the next generation of its Spectralis imaging device is being sent into space by NASA.

The OCT2 module will optimise acquisition speed and capture more complex scans on the International Space Station, as well as OCT angiography, anterior segment imaging, and ultra-widefield fundus imaging.

Director of clinical research at Heidelberg Engineering, Ali Tafreshi, said: “The TruTrack Active Eye Tracking technology uses a second laser beam to actively track the eye during OCT scanning to effectively ‘freeze’ the retina and avoid motion artefacts. With this technology, a precise OCT image can be captured, even if the subject blinks or moves.”

Some 49 years on from the landmark Voyager moon landing, experiencing space exploration continues to capture the imagination and inspire the intrepid.

Last week we heard how Sir Richard Branson has stepped up his astronaut training to prepare for a space flight of his own. And I was fascinated to read this week that Spain's new prime minister has appointed Pedro Duque – the first Spaniard to go into space – as the science, innovation and universities minister in Spain's new government. Is it the inspiration needed for Theresa May to find a big job for the brilliant UK astronaut Tim Peake?

Image credit: Getty