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Astronaut grows almost two inches taller after year in space

March 9, 2016

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NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly recently returned to Earth almost two inches taller after being the first American to spend nearly a year in space on the International Space Station. It didn’t last long, though. After touching down in Kazakhstan, Kelly was back to his normal height because “gravity pushes you back down to size.”

According to NASA, the human body does some bizarre things in a microgravity environment – bones thin, muscles atrophy, and astronauts have even detected cardiac arrhythmias and decreased heart function in space. About one-third of American astronauts have even developed vision problems after space flight. Kelly and his identical twin brother, Mark Kelly, are the subjects of NASA’s Twin Study to determine how the body adapts in the absence of gravity.

TLU Biology Professor Dr. William Squires worked at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in the early 1980s as an exercise physiologist and director of cardiac rehabilitation and also studied the effects of a microgravity environment on the human body. After leaving NASA, he joined TLU but went back to Johnson Space Center in Houston in 1989-90 for a sabbatical and worked as a senior research scientist for the biomechanics lab/exercise countermeasure project. He, along with colleagues John Walker (University of Houston), Michael Greenisen (NASA Johnson Space Center) and Lynda Cowell (Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine), published the paper, “Astronaut Adaption to 1G Following Long Duration Space Flight,” in 1991.

“This research is important if we’re gong to put boots on Mars by the 2030’s as NASA has suggested,” said Squires. “To do that, we have to have a better understanding of how to keep our astronauts healthy and safe while they’re in space and after they return.”

Dr. Squires teaches pathophysiology and principles of nutrition at TLU.

Pictured: Professor Bill Squires, far right, tests the shuttle treadmill system on the KC 135 aircraft before it was deployed for inflight exercise use on the shuttle. Astronauts have to exercise in space to keep their muscles functional for their return.