Oops! Japanese astronaut who thought he’d grown 9cm in space seriously messed up his calculations
You may have heard an interesting, if troublesome, news story this week, which detailed the plight of Norishige Kanai – the Japanese astronaut who claimed he’d grown 9cm (3.5in) in three weeks.
He feared his growth spurt, which is not an unusual side effect of space travel, might prevent him from returning to Earth: “This makes me a little worried that I might not be able to fit in the Soyuz seats for our return,” he ruminated on Twitter. Claustrophobics among us felt duly queasy.
Kanai prefaced his announcement ominously, warning of a “critical report”: “My height’s been measured here in space and somehow, somehow, I’ve grown 9cm! In only three weeks I’ve really shot up, something I haven’t seen since high school!”
Turns out, Kanai’s incredulity was warranted. The 41-year-old astronaut, who has been in space for nearly six-months on a mission to the International Space Station, vastly overestimated his growth spurt, which in reality measured a far more modest 2cm (0.8in).
The phenomenon is not unprecedented – the absence of gravity in space has been known to extend astronauts’ spines. However, the difference is typically only a couple of centimetres, with the change reversing once those affected are back on Earth.
Kanai appeared mortified once he realised the miscalculation, tweeting that “[t]his mis-measurement appears to have become a big deal, so I must apologise for this terrible fake news”. It’s unsure as to how the miscalculation occurred; at over fourfold the true measurement, that 9cm “growth spurt” looks like more than just poetic license.
The good news is that Kanai can fit on vessel taking him home. “It appears I can fit on the Soyuz, so I’m relieved.” Aaaaaand exhale.
Image credit: Wikemedia Commons