Jan 092018

Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai, 41, claims he has grown 9 centimeters taller during his stay on the International Space Station (ISS) as a result of the lack of gravity, and now he is worried he won’t fit in the capsule that will bring him back to Earth.

Norishige Kanai

Norishige Kanai (public domain)

In a message posted on Monday he said:
“Good morning everybody. I have major announcement today. We had our bodies measured after reaching space and wow, wow, wow, I had actually grown by as much as 9 cm. I grew like some plant in just three weeks. I am a bit worried whether I will fit in the Soyuz seat when I go back”.

Kanai, a JAXA engineer embarked for his first space mission, arrived at the ISS on December 19th aboard a Soyuz capsule. He traveled alongside Russian Anton Shkaplerov and American Scott Tingle as crew members of Expedition 54/55.

The three astronauts, who are scheduled to stay in the floating lab for about half a year, joined Alexander Misurkin, Mark Vande Hei and Joseph Acaba, who have been already aboard ISS since last September.

According to Russian orthopedic surgeon Vladimir Horoshev, “this bizarre stretching phenomenon is easy to explain.” “Cartilaginous tissue suffers changes in gravity-free conditions. The spine is not only formed of vertebrae, but also of cartilaginous structures such as the intervertebral discs”, the surgeon said.

“The cartilage is very flexible and susceptible to change, unlike the bones which remain unaltered in conditions of reduced gravity. In outer space, the burden on the spine is reduced tenfold and the cartilaginous tissue of the intervertebral discs stretch out leading to an increase in the length of the trunk,” Horoshev added.

Astronauts shrink back down to their normal size once back on Earth and affected by its gravity.