Lieutenant Norishige Kanai said that he has stretched out during his time on the International Space Station (ISS). The extra 9cm he has gained since he arrived on December has left him worried he won’t squeeze into the small space of the Soyuz capsule, which is set to carry him back down to Earth.
“Good morning, everybody,” he posted on social media. “I have a major announcement today. We had our bodies measured after reaching space, and wow, wow, wow, I had actually grown by as much as 9cm!
“I grew like some plant in just three weeks. Nothing like this since high school. I’m a bit worried whether I’ll fit in the Soyuz seat when I go back.”
It’s not clear how serious Mr Kanai was being, but space is at a premium on the ISS. The capsule to carry astronauts is strictly measured, and requires everyone travelling in it to be fit into a small and very precise space.
Astronauts often grow or stretch out while they’re up on the International Space Station. But it’s rare they grow as much or as fast as Mr Kanai has, usually only adding a couple of centimetres to their height during their time in space.
The effect happens as the astronauts’ spines stretch out, because of the reduced gravity on board the floating lab. Because the vertebrae aren’t being pushed together as much as they are on Earth, they are able to float apart and lead to the strange stretching phenomenon.
Much of the extra height is gained when the astronauts arrive in space, though growing 9cm in a few weeks is very rare. They then grow more slowly over time.
They shrink back down to their usual size once back on Earth and affected by its gravity.
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