No, Japanese Astronaut Didn’t Grow 3.5 Inches in Space


Kanai apologized this week for telling a tall tale about his in-space growth spurt (via Reuters/NASA)

It’s not uncommon to lie about physical attributes to impress potential partners on a dating site. But a Japanese astronaut has apologized for misrepresenting his height online after a month on the International Space Station.

Norishige Kanai on Monday tweeted that he’d grown 9 cm (3.5 inches) while in space, and was “a little worried that I might not be able to fit in the Soyuz seats for our return.”

While it is true that spending time in zero gravity environments (like space) can cause the spine to lengthen slightly, people tend to expand about 2 to 5 centimeters. (After a year on the ISS, NASA’s Scott Kelly returned to Earth in 2016 an impressive 2 inches taller than his twin.)

The 41-year-old JAXA astronaut’s claim, however, turned out to be a rather tall tale: Called out by skeptical captain Anton Nikolaevich Shkaplerov, Kanai later remeasured himself to find he’d actually stretched only 2 cm (less than an inch) since launching into space on Dec. 17.

“This mis-measurement appears to have become a big deal, so I must apologize for this terrible fake news,” Kanai tweeted on Tuesday, as translated and reported by Reuters. “It appears I can fit on the Soyuz, so I’m relieved.”

He should enjoy the growth spurt while he can: According to Popular Science, a few days or weeks in Earth’s gravitational pull will help shrink Kanai back to his original height.

Last month, the Soyuz MS-07 transported three members of the Expedition 54 crew—including Kanai—to the International Space Station. The physician and cosmonaut was joined by Commander Shkaplerov of the Russian Federal Space Agency and NASA flight engineer Scott Tingle.

One of the 14 members of the 20th NASA astronaut class, Kanai was certified as an ISS rocketeer in 2011. Four years later, he participated as an aquanaut as part of the NEEMO 20 crew.


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