Japanese astronaut claims to have grown 9-cm taller in space; How true is his claim?

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Are you short and desperately want a few more inches added to your height? Then, probably your go-to place should be space. Apparently, all you have to do to become taller is become an astronaut and fly off to deep space. This is exactly what Norishige Kanai, a Japanese astronaut currently residing at the International Space Station, claims.

Initially, Kanai wrote on Twitter that he has become three and a half inches taller following his arrival at the space lab on December 19.

"Good morning, everyone. Today I share some serious news. Since coming to space, I have grown 9 centimeters. This is the most I've grown in 3 weeks since junior high school," Kanai wrote.

This phenomenon is actually not new but Kanai's height increase is exceptional. While up to two inches is normal in space, three and a half inches growth in height is incredible, according to the experts.

However, later amongst all the news about his incredible growth in space, Kanai posted another message on Twitter, which said that his growth has been of only 2 centimeters (0.7874 inch) and not 9 centimeters. "It was about 182 cm when I measured it easily by myself. It was + 2 cm from the ground," the astronaut wrote in his post.

He also apologized for the previous miscalculation. However, he didn't mention how the error in the calculation appeared. "This miss-measurement appears to have become a big deal, so I must apologize for this terrible fake news," he tweeted later.

This phenomenon of growing taller in zero gravity occurs particularly due to the weightlessness in space. Without the gravity, which normally squeezes the spine on earth, fluid fluctuates between the discs because they get bigger temporarily.

It is actually more common than we can imagine, as we witness it regularly on earth in specific conditions too, especially every night while sleeping, chief health and medical officer of NASA J. D. Polk told The Washington Post.

While lying down, a human's spine gets decompressed up to half a centimeter and then again it gets compressed and gets back to the normal position while standing or sitting. Similar to that, astronauts get back to their usual height once they get back to the home planet.

This increase in height is important while developing suits, equipment and space stations. Clearly, earth's taller people are to some extent restricted to go to space, as they would grow even taller and that would create a problem. Earlier, several astronauts have been rejected to go on different operations because of their height.

For example, the iconic Mercury 7 crew contained astronauts who were all less than six feet. "According to my quick calculations here, I seem to have grown about an inch or so. So I'm now too tall to fly in space," stated one Richard Hieb, the commander of the Columbia payload, in 1994. "And that's without slipper-socks," added Hieb, whose height was 6 feet 3 inches, reported the publication.

Also Read: How do astronauts eat and drink in space?

As NASA is planning to explore deeper into space, to Mars and to several more unknown places in the universe, it is imperative for scientists to understand and predict how much an astronaut may grow in such longer missions under zero-gravity. All their tools and supplies would depend on their years-long space journey period.

This article was first published on January 10, 2018