Ever wish you could be a bit taller? NASA now says space travel may lead to taller individuals, although only temporaril.
It is a commonly known fact that astronauts living aboard the International Space Station (IIS) grow up to 3 percent taller while living in microgravity, the U.S. space agency said in a press statement released earlier this year. A study to examine the strange lengthening process is slated to begin and should present the agency will some interesting data.
“This is the very first time that spinal ultrasound will be used to evaluate the changes in the spine,” said Scott A. Dulchavsky, M.D., Ph.D., principal investigator for the station study. “Spinal ultrasound is more challenging to perform than many of the previous ultrasound examinations done in space.”
While it is well known that astronauts become taller while in space, scientists still are not quite sure why. A number of studies are currently underway to better understand the phenomenon, although it could be years before NASA begins to understand exactly what happens.
“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,” Dulchavsky said. “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.”
According to NASA, the research could help with developing exercises for better crew health and guiding improved rehabilitation techniques when astronauts return to Earth. Understanding how changes to the spine occur in real-time response to life in space also will help crews prepare for future long-duration missions.
The data sessions are scheduled to take place on orbit beginning this month.