Astronaut Corrected His Myopia To Pass NASA Entrance Exam Without Surgery, Lenses

Hello all,

Thank you for contributing so much to this resource (Endmyopia as a whole) used by so many.

The 2016 book Spaceman: An Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe is a memoir by NASA astronaut Mike Massimino. In this book, Massimino claims that NASA rejected him for astronaut training and spaceflight because he was too myopic (he failed the vision exam). According to Massimino, he was so determined to become an astronaut that instead of giving up, he did what most would deem impossible: he worked with a doctor to improve his myopia. Massimino claims that after many months of arduous training, he re-took the NASA vision exam and passed (!) having sufficiently reduced his myopia.

Although the publisher does not offer the book for free online, Google Books hosts a copy with many pages missing: https://www.google.com/books/edition/Spaceman/vbNQCwAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&printsec=frontcover. The vision improvement and testing is chronicled in chapter 8, “Yes or No”.

Based on some searching, no one in this community is aware of what I present here. I find this surprising, and I’m excited to think I can help by writing this post.

Although to my knowledge Massimino did not specifically practice EM, I cannot help but think that in terms of the community’s evidence and outreach one couldn’t ask for a better case study: Massimino is famous and well-respected even among astronauts, and his significant myopia reduction was documented by NASA, before-and-after.

I hope this is useful to you.

Sincerely,
James Kirk Cropcho

7 Likes

Nice find! Thanks for sharing.

There are actually lots of stories (less glamorous perhaps) of people getting their eyesight back. Obviously, since per the design of the biology that’s how they are supposed to work.

Problem always being that without having a couple of decades of a lot of participants sharing experiences and making it possible to tweak a less-arduous approach … it ends up being a pretty challenging undertaking. :grimacing:

We should have Mike on our Shortsighted Podcast …

6 Likes

That would be so awesome!

2 Likes

You should certainly ask Massimino to be on your podcast. https://www.mikemassimino.com/. He’s been on Altucher’s show (https://jamesaltucher.com/podcast/mike-massimino/) (where he discussed vision correction briefly).

5 Likes

yessssssss!

1 Like

Done. E-mailed them. There was an interesting field about “fees” so it seems we may have to possibly cough up to hear Mike’s story. :wink:

7 Likes

I decided it was worth the price of a kindle version of his book, and have just read the relevant chapter. He had a problem other than myopia which disqualified him. It was probably astigmatism which made it impossible to pass the test even when corrected to 20/20. He solved it by

  1. changing his contact lenses for glasses
  2. getting a vision therapist who gave him plenty of exercises
  3. getting access to a Landolt C machine to practise on
  4. learning how to relax his eyes, as the testers could see very well when he was straining to focus. He was pulling all sorts of distorted faces in an attempt to relax.
  5. finally passing the test, corrected to 20/20 and getting an adequate score on the test without correction. No indication of what an adequate uncorrected score would be.

He also mentions staring until his eyes got bloodshot???

At no point does he talk about his diopter needs, before or after all this effort.

Perhaps not worthwhile following up?

p.s. The vision therapist did give him reduced lenses - by how much???

7 Likes

I don’t know the specifics of Massimino’s vision pathologies nor his treatment. To my knowledge this information is not publicly available (and the chapter in question is far from a how-to guide).

Yes, it is my understanding too that his myopia remained after passing the exam. Massimino claims he was interested only in passing, rather than reaching 20/20 without correction.

On page 79 Massimino mentions both his nearsightedness (myopia) and his goal of improvement of visual acuity specifically.

On pages 83–84 Massimino claims his “unaided acuity” was tested, and that it was this which he had worked to improve.

If anyone thinks I am misreading, let me know. Additionally, I do not have access to the pages removed from the Google Books copy.

On this topic thread, Massimino’s self-treatment regimen has been contrasted with EM (e.g. bloodshot eyes; monkey faces; diopter adjustment, while happening, not being top of mind). The tone of the contrast seems to suggest that Massimino “did it wrong,” or that what he did is not interesting, because he writes like someone foreign to EM. It seems to be a very EM-centric critique.

I think that this angle leads to a distraction from the use I had in mind for Massimino’s history: that, conditional on my accurate interpretation of his claims, he is a well-respected public figure whose myopia correction was keenly documented by a well-respected organization who considered his vision to be of (literally) mission-critical importance.

More information is needed.

.
James

That was not the intention, and if anyone is not EM-centric, it is myself. I don’t think there is any ‘right’ way to improve eyesight. The use of ‘monkey faces’ in my post is a bit of an EM in joke (arising mainly from Jake telling us not to monkey around with lenses), and from what I read in the relevant chapter, he himself admits to the most extraordinary facial distortions in his attempt to relax his eyes.

I would not have spent any money on the Kindle version if I had not been very interested in how he did it. It was certainly not with the intention of rubbishing anything he did. By all means let us hear from the man himself what his vision problem was, and how he fixed it, if Jake thinks it’s worth the fee. It was the word ‘corrected’ in the thread title that had me hoping that he had indeed managed to reverse his myopia entirely. Although many people would like to improve to 20/20, I think that any amount of reversal of myopia is worth the effort.

It seems that on the second-last test even his vision corrected to 20/20 did not pass muster because the tester could see that he was not using ‘relaxed’ vision. I suspect she would not have tested his unaided vision after that. But if you like, I will reread all the bits in this chapter relating to eyesight and testing, and correct my post if I am wrong. I will admit that I skimmed through the chapter, as I was only looking for the eyesight related bits. I might have missed something.

1 Like

You are right, it was on his unaided vision that he failed the test which he passed later, in a more relaxed setting. I have reread this section. It is a a pity we do not know what the cut-off line for unaided vision was set at. But I do not think this changes much in my initial reply. I will edit out the monkey faces part, as that seems to be offensive.

1 Like

I found this on pag 74 of the book. He failed the test initially because his unaided vision was beyond their limit, he could not be corrected to 20/20, and he had a flat eyeball in his head.

Inability to correct to 20/20 could well be astigmatism. What the flat eyeball refers to is anybody’s guess.

I do believe that vision therapy can be very useful in correcting astigmatism. I have absolutely nothing against it.

I suspect the bar for unaided vision would be pretty high. You wouldn’t want to find yourself floating in space having lost your glasses.

1 Like

My name is Doug Wheelock. Right now I’m a NASA astronaut and I’m sitting in Houston, Texas at the Johnson Space Center. I’ve flown in space twice once on the Space Shuttle Discovery and then I lived in space for six months in 2010 as the commander of the International Space Station.

And with the vision, as long as your vision is correctable to 20/20, it’s no problem if you wear glasses.

source:

1 Like

I have been looking into this as well, and have found different figures. One site said 20/50 was the limit for unaided vision, and another said it was 20/100. But they both insisted on vision correctable to 20/20.

Did a bit more digging and this is what I found. Apparently standards have been relaxed and it depends on what kind of astronaut one is.

2 Likes

I am now hunting for issues that would make eyes uncorrectable to 20/20. Apart from some obvious medical ones, this is what I found:

Conditions that typically cause a milder variety of uncorrectable vision loss are keratoconus, corneal scarring, and irregular astigmatism

This does not bode well for my left eye. Thank goodness I have a pretty straightforward right eye. But our astronaut moved from uncorrectable to correctable, so he must have done something right. All hope is not lost. :smile:

1 Like

I appreciate all the research (including from a primary source, present on-thread!).

The only think I have to add here at present is this:

According to Wikipedia Massimino was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in May 1996 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA_Astronaut_Group_16). According to Wikipedia he was a Space Shuttle astronaut, and performed spacewalks (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Massimino).

It goes without saying that I am not the spaceflight expert on this thread.

It seems entirely possible that 1) the vision standards for NASA astronauts were different 25 years ago for those aboard the Shuttle; and/or 2) NASA vision standards were/are more stringent for those performing spacewalks than for other astronauts.

.
James

When I looked into this back in 2001, since I was going to get my aerospace engineering with an eye for trying to be an astronaut, it was something like 20/200 uncorrected. Since I was worse than that, I endeavored to improve my eyes. I did an EM type approach, using weaker glasses, using what we call differentials for PC work, and straining to clear the resultant blur. I eventually gave up because I wasn’t improving very fast (after initial rapid gains) and didn’t try again until stumbling upon EM and learning how long it actually takes.

I estimate I improved about 0.5D baseline the first time.

I bring it up because it’s astro requirements and my first attempt long ago driven by those requirements is what started me down the EM path.

5 Likes

Chapter 8 https://publicism.info/biography/spaceman/9.html

“For the next seven months I only had one job: fix my eyes. I found an optometrist who specialized in vision training, a woman named Desiree Hopping. First she gave me a new pair of glasses with undercorrected lenses; they would take the strain off my focusing system and help my eyes to relax. Then she gave me some exercises. There was one where I had to stare at a bunch of marbles spaced out on a string at different intervals, shifting my focus to each one. I had to stare at different eye charts at different distances, the idea being that I would train my eye to relax and focus on an imaginary point beyond where the chart is, causing the letters on the chart to appear sharper. These exercises required deep, deep concentration. I had to do this dead stare for minutes at a stretch, no blinking. I looked like a serial killer giving you the evil eye. Some nights I’d go to bed and my eyes would be bloodshot from the strain of forcing them to relax, which sounds odd but it’s true.”

I’ve seen these exercises before. They’re for strabismus and/or lazy eye. They essentially help you equalize your eyes, and recalibrate usage of both eyes. I do something similar (called pencil pushups) sometimes when I’ve been staring at a screen for a long time (like today looking at all this GME stuff). I’d take the tip of a vertical pencil/pen in front of my face and between the eyes and focus on it at varying distances from my face. Following the tip of the pen as the pen goes further from my face is particularly helpful for me. Definitely no replacement for reducing screen time though.

2 Likes

That gives a useful time context. I am not sure if one can find out what the selection criteria for vision were at that time. I will leave that to other more determined diggers to find out. :smile:

What now intrigues me more is the comment in the book on clinical medicine for space flight that experience of the effects of space on vision was one of the things that led NASA to relax their standards for vision. I might do a little digging in that direction.

1 Like

It didn’t take much digging to come up with what seems more like bad news than anything else - flattened eyeballs. This does not sound like the axial shortening one would want.

Here is a short video illustrating it. A myope might appreciate the shift in the + direction, but not the pressure on the optic nerve.

1 Like

Here Mike talks about being -4, ortho-k and other eye stuff From 22:45 to 29:40 . Not really informational but he’s a great story teller.

I haven’t confirmed the truth of this but sources online say that this was the vision therapist Mike worked with https://visionsource-hoppingclearlake.com/about-us/dr-desiree-t-hopping/

3 Likes