Technology

Astronaut Might Not Be Able To Fly Home Due To Growth In Space

A Japanese Astronaut has gained more than a few centimeters while spending time on the International Space Station, and is now worried he might not be able to return home due to his growth in space.

Astronaut Growth In Space
By NASA/Tom Buzbee [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Growth In Space

Growth in space is a recognizable phenomenon due to the lower impact of gravity. While spending any length of time on the International Space Station of more than a few days, the reduced gravity causes an increased space between vertebrae in the spine and a subsequent growth in space.

While the growth in space reverses itself while back in Earth and under the effects of normal gravity, it may have become a problem for Japanese astronaut, Lieutenant Norishige Kanai.

Trouble Getting Home

Some growth in space is normal, but the extent to which Kanai grew – an astonishing 9cm – is unprecedented. This extra growth may actually be a major problem, and has the astronaut concerned that he might not actually be able to fit into the Soyuz capsule which is intended to carry him back to Earth.

The available space inside a capsule is incredibly limited, and astronauts need to be within a certain size and weight in order to fit inside the cramped area. A growth of a couple of centimeters might be tolerated, but a growth of 9cm could pose a problem.

Kanai posted the news on social media in a cheery post, but the situation isn’t exactly something to celebrate.

“Good morning, everybody…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.”

The Dangerous Effects Of Space Travel

There’s currently know word on what exactly will happen if Kanai doesn’t fit into the capsule, but a long period of time in space is inadvisable. There’s a very real problem with astronauts experiencing premature aging while in space, and this is usually controlled by limiting the length of time spent on the space station with relatively regular trips back down to Earth.

The dangerous effects on both the mind and body of lengthy space travel have also called into question the viability of a manned trip to Mars. While multiple solutions are in development for more space travel to the red planet, the fact remains that humans riding on such a long trip may be adversely affected. While we currently have some experiments in progress that hope to find breakthroughs in the study of space-related aging, we currently don’t have any way to protect space travelers from this issue.

In an effort to avoid sounding alarmist, it’s important to state that Kanai is nowhere near experiencing any of these negative effects. It is important that we find a way to get him back to Earth close to his normal schedule despite his growth in space, however – whether that means cramming him into a small capsule or finding a more novel solution.