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Astronauts grow taller in space



April 13, 2024

  • Yes, astronauts can temporarily grow taller in space due to the effects of microgravity on the spine and the body’s overall physiology.
  • When in the microgravity environment of space, the absence of gravity’s compressive force allows the spinal discs to expand and elongate.
  • On Earth, gravity constantly compresses the spinal discs, causing astronauts and everyone else to be slightly shorter by the end of the day compared to when they woke up in the morning.
  • In microgravity, this spinal elongation can lead to astronauts gaining a small amount of height, usually up to 2 inches (5 centimeters) or more, depending on the individual.
  • This increase in height occurs because the discs between the vertebrae in the spine are no longer compressed by the force of gravity.
  • However, this height gain is temporary and reversible.
  • When astronauts return to Earth and are exposed to gravity again, their spinal discs gradually compress, and they return to their pre-spaceflight height.
  • The process of returning to their normal height can take some time and might be associated with discomfort or back pain as the spine readjusts to the compressive forces of gravity.