The Final (LED) Frontier

A lighting change on the International Space Station could create health benefits for earthlings.

A swap of fluorescent lighting to adjustable LEDs on the International Space Station (ISS) may normalize life for astronauts – and could enhance sleeping patterns for earthlings.

Since the ISS circles the Earth every 92 minutes, its astronauts can witness the sun rising and setting 16 times in a single day. Consequently, ISS astronauts operate outside of typical 24-hour circadian rhythm schedules and rely on artificial lighting (and caffeine) to stay conscious. To combat this issue and to avoid cataclysmic fatigue-induced errors – the ISS orbits Earth at 17,500 mph and cost more than $100 billion to build – ISS astronauts are replacing the station’s fluorescent General Luminaire Assemblies (GLAs) with new LED-fitted Solid-State Light Assemblies (SSLAs). Per NASA press materials, the SSLAs contain three settings that generate a lighting environment that can be altered to promote attentiveness, endorse drowsiness or provide customary ‘daylight’ while also offering more energy-efficient lighting than the GLAs (pictured with astronaut Mike Fincke).

Through its Lighting Effects Study, NASA is not only monitoring the effects of the new lighting, but is also searching for any positive developments that can be applied to the sleep-deprived people of Earth.

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