Science Space

Scott Kelly Grew Two Inches During His Year In Space – But Why?


We all know someone who has always dreamt of being taller. Imagining having long luxurious legs, that allow you to reach to that top cupboard in the kitchen to get that jar you haven’t touched in years; however here on Earth, your height is based on the genes that your parents pass down to you. Once you have stopped growing, you have no chance of getting any taller, on Earth that is.

Scott Kelly

Scott Kelly returned to earth from his year spent at the International Space Station with a lot more than he bargained for. No, not just worldwide fame and millions of YouTube hits. Scott returned with just over two inches of height on top of him, in comparison to when he left the planet, but what on earth (excuse the pun) happened?

Well, after Astronaut Scott Kelly spent his year in the zero – G environment (like the type that is on the International Space Station), his spine began to stretch causing him grow several inches. Gravity on Earth literally keeps you in place, causing your vertebrae to stay where it is by pushing them together. However, when you remove gravity (such as travelling through space), the vertebrae will expand to allow room in between them. This can then cause you to grow the few inches which gravity would usually steal away from you.

Not for Long

Although you don’t have to be too jealous for long, as the growth is temporary. After a few months with their feet back on Earth, the vertebrae will be pushed back together, causing them to shrink back to their normal size, and losing the three percent growth that they had received in space.

Although the height change may be an enviable trait of being in space, there are also several hundred side effects that come with being in a zero-G environment for such an extensive amount of time. A lot of these side effects are still unknown, causing NASA to extensively study Scott Kelly, and compare the results to his twin brother Mark, who has spent the past year on Earth. This is so they can assess the long time differences, and psychological differences between identical siblings, in as much of a contrasting environment as they could muster. Well, space is pretty different from Earth you know…

Studying Scott

A lot of the extensive studies that are taking place on Scott Kelly are not only to assess the future safety of astronauts, but also to assess the possibility of normal civilians on Earth, visiting or even living in space. It could also be a way to look into the possibilities of extraterrestrial life, and finding out if the chance of life on mars could indeed be our future. Although it is a large leap, it is in fact a step in the right direction to finding out a future for not only our planet but in fact our universe.

So, if you do crave longer legs or height that makes catwalk models jealous then I am afraid you are out of luck. That is unless you have the chance to visit the International Space Station, then you might just grow a couple of inches without the use of sky-high heels. Or those funky platform shoes that Tom Cruise wears. No Tom, we hadn’t forgotten.

About the author

Rebecca Walton

Rebecca has always been fascinated with the business and tech world, having grown up with parents in the industry. She has a real passion for science - particularly space and the unknown realms that surround the planet! Rebecca has been writing for different publications for nearly 6 years and is now an editor at Pangaea Express.