Adults steadily loose the ability to see close-up (presbyopia). By the mid-40's, most people have surrendered to the inevitable and switched to bifocals. These provide closer focus when looking down (the position most people use for reading). Some occupations (like plumbers) also need near vision when working overhead, and use "occupational bifocals" with a second bifocal section in the top of the lens.

Astronauts are usually in the bifocal age group and need to work overhead.

enter image description here Endeavor's cockpit

Do astronauts wear plumber's bifocals?

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    $\begingroup$ I am pretty sure, Astronauts are not wearing biofocals googles or progressive lenses at all, since they have no need to look on longer distances ... but i am curious for answers with usefull sources. $\endgroup$
    – CallMeTom
    Commented Feb 7, 2023 at 12:03
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    $\begingroup$ @CallMeTom For the purposes of corrective lenses, a "longer distance" is generally defined as being out of arm's reach. You still need that kind of distance vision in e.g. the ISS. $\endgroup$
    – Flater
    Commented Feb 8, 2023 at 4:02
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    $\begingroup$ Striking difference between the Shuttle cockpit and Dragon. Even the Boeing Starliner is more akin to the Shuttle with it's switchs knobs and dials... Dragon depends totally on not getting a BSOD.... $\endgroup$
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Feb 8, 2023 at 16:27
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    $\begingroup$ different but related: Can astronauts wear eyeglasses inside their helmets during launches and landings? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Feb 8, 2023 at 20:37
  • $\begingroup$ @CGCampbell The accepted answer to this question might explain why (since Dragon is largely flown on auto) aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/22729/… $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 10, 2023 at 17:13

1 Answer 1


Well, at least during the Space Shuttle era, some did.

I remember, as I aged into my 40's, getting disgruntled during training events in the Shuttle Mission Simulator, as I was beginning to have trouble both reading the checklists and viewing the overhead panels while I was strapped into the pilot's seat. The NASA eye doc suggested I try a pair of what he called "tri-focals," with lenses somewhat like this:

enter image description here

Note that the glasses they made for me had "near" sections both at the tops and bottoms of their lenses. Mine were not "progressive," since I did not care for that effect.

Here is a shot of me wearing them on orbit, during mission STS-109:

enter image description here

As an aside, this photo was taken during flight day 2, IIRC, and I was feeling pretty nauseous at the time, despite the rather silly grin (SAS)...

I also remember said eye doc telling me that the use of glasses like this was not all that uncommon, as many of us were at least beginning to suffer from presbyopia...maddening for someone like myself who had always been blessed with rather good eyesight!

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    $\begingroup$ I love seeing authoritative answers like this on the Space Exploration stackexchange! $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 8, 2023 at 21:34
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    $\begingroup$ "Double D" designation is used on other consumer products as well. I'm surprised they chose this term for marketing bifocals. $\endgroup$
    – Woody
    Commented Feb 9, 2023 at 21:23
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    $\begingroup$ It's a "D shaped" near lens. It's got two of them (top and bottom), so it's a "double D". Companies don't get to choose what they call them: it's what the opticians and customers call them, and if you want to sell to that market, you have to use the common terminology. $\endgroup$
    – david
    Commented Feb 10, 2023 at 1:51

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