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Astronaut's alarming growth spurt not as crazy as it seemed

A Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut worried he might be outgrowing his clothes while in space.

Astronaut Norishige Kanai is now slightly taller than he was when he left Earth in December.

Norishige Kanai

Space does weird things to your body. One of the odder effects is elongating your spine, which makes you taller. NASA notes astronauts can grow up to 2 inches (5 centimeters) due to microgravity, but Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai was worried he'd expanded much more than that while on the International Space Station.

The story of Kanai's space growth spurt played out on Twitter over the last couple days. His first tweet said he grew a whopping 3.5 inches (9 centimeters) in his first few weeks in space. The JAXA astronaut joked he might not be able to squeeze into his Soyuz capsule seat to return home at the end of his mission. 

Kanai followed that tweet Tuesday with a fresh assessment of his height. As it turns out, he mis-measured and only really gained about 0.75 inches (2 centimeters). That means he's perfectly normal by astronaut standards and isn't turning into some sort of human version of Stretch Armstrong.

This is Kanai's first time on the International Space Station, so he's still learning what it's like to live in microgravity. But even if Kanai's original measurement was correct, he'd still have been able to fit into his custom spacesuit for his eventual return home. NASA says the suits are designed to accommodate a small change in height.

No matter how stretchy Kanai's spine might be right now, he can look forward to shrinking down to his regular height once the pull of gravity on Earth's surface compresses his vertebrae back to their regular state.