Astronaut Scott Kelly grew 2 inches in space; Here's why


Astronaut Scott Kelly grew 2 inches in space; Here's why

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Astronaut Scott Kelly spent a year in space so scientists could learn about how the body reacts to extended space travel. 

Astronaut Scott Kelly returned to Earth this week after 340 days aboard the International Space Station. It was all part of an extended study into how the human body reacts to space and microgravity over a long period of time.

While Kelly reported on some oddities that happened to his body while he was up there, one of the changes he underwent is interesting but not all that unusual: He grew 2 inches in height.

NASA confirmed his height on Wednesday as he was set to return to Houston. And besides the usual way of confirming such things (a ruler?), scientist also have their very own control subject - Kelly's twin brother, Mark, who stayed behind for the year so scientists could compare the two. 

(Scott will return to normal height soon after his return to Earth.) 

So why did Scott Kelly "grow?"

Gravity exerts a lot of pressure on the spine. So without it, the vertebrae spread out and a person can "grow" as much as 3 inches, according to the website Because arms and legs are not constructed like the spine, with space in between the bones, this elongation only happens to the spine. Scientists also think that in microgravity, the space between the bones might become filled with more fluid, as well. 

NASA was able to study the effects of space travel on the spine in real time thanks to ultrasound technology that is on board the space station. Astronauts are able to scan their backs and submit the images to NASA. 

Scientists first learned about spinal elongation in space from the Skylab mission, where they studied six astronauts - all of whom "grew" by 3 percent.

Here's more on what happens to your body in space (if you're on mobile, click here to watch the video):

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