If you ever wanted to be slightly taller, maybe you should think about going into space. Apparently, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and space buffs have known for years that voyaging into outer space can add up to 3 percent in height for astronauts. That means that an astronaut who is 6 feet tall on Earth can grow two inches. Now, for the first time, NASA is exploring just why this phenomenon occurs.
The space bureau will use ultrasound technology to examine what happens to the spines of astronauts in microgravity. According to Space.com, it is believed that, when the spine is free from the constraints of gravity, the vertebrae can expand and relax. Six astronauts will participate in the clinical trial, using the ultrasound on one of their crewmates. They will be required to take scan of their spinal areas 30, 90 and 150 days into the flight. This experiment will be the first time that ultrasound examinations on the spine will be performed in space, because spinal ultrasounds are more complicated than ultrasounds on other parts of the body.
"Today there is a new ultrasound device on the station that allows more precise musculoskeletal imaging required for assessment of the complex anatomy and the spine," Scott A. Dulchavsky, the principal investigator, said in a statement. "The crew will be able to perform these complex evaluations in the next year due to a newly developed Just-In-Time training guide for spinal ultrasound, combined with refinements in crew training and remote guidance procedures."
Researchers hope that if they understand better the way that the spine changes, they can improve rehabilitation efforts for astronauts who have returned to Earth.
However, for people hoping to go into space, the height increase is only temporary. Astronauts shrink back to their normal size after a couple of months back on Earth.