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NASA Approves Advanced LASIK for Use on Astronauts  

In a move sure to alter the landscape for non 20/20 space dreamers, NASA approved the use of advanced LASIK surgery for U.S. astronauts. Already approved by the Navy and more recently the Air Force for use on fighter pilots, NASA was a hold out to allow the surgery. Naval aviator clinical trial data however, made a compelling case that the procedure could withstand even the most extreme rigors of warfare and flight.  The question that remained for me was would they accept the procedure in people who were applying to the corp is response to their recent call for applications? In the past, new astronaut applicants needed to have better  than 20/200 vision, even though veteran astronaut’s vision did not have to meet as high a standard. Did this new decision apply only to veteran astronauts or would this really alter the playing field for astronaut hopefuls?  I did some sniffing around and according to a NASA FAQ website on astronaut selection:

Is surgery to improve visual acuity allowed?

As of September 2007, the refractive surgical procedures of the eye, PRK and LASIK, are now allowed, providing at least 1 year has passed since the date of the procedure with no permanent adverse after effects.  For those applicants under final consideration, an operative report on the surgical procedure will be requested.

The 2009 class will be a brave new world indeed. You had better hurry though, according to the time line of selection, interviewees will be brought to Johnson Space Center in
November-December 2008 for interviews and medical evaluation. With a year needed post surgery to be eligible, you better schedule that elective surgery now.  According to company literature, over 50% of rejected astronaut applicants have been dismissed due to poor vision. (And just think, contact lens wearers can do away with a few extra bottles of liquids when going through airport security, that is probably worth the cost of the surgery right there!) This new policy could make next years selection all the more competitive.  As of September 2007, the refractive surgical procedures of the eye, PRK and LASIK, are now allowed, providing at least 1 year has passed since the date of the procedure with no permanent adverse after effects.  For those applicants under final consideration, an operative report on the surgical procedure will be requested.

By Loretta Hidalgo Whitesides, 09.24.2007, wired.com

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