Astronauts do appear to grow in space. This is because of the effects of what is known as microgravity on the vertebrae. With less gravitational pull on the vertebrae, they begin to stretch. As a result, the spine is elongated for the duration of the trip. When the astronaut returns to Earth, gravity once again forces the vertebrae to compress, restoring his or her usual height.
More facts about living in space:
- Along with allowing the vertebrae to stretch, microgravity can lead to muscle loss and atrophy. To offset the effects of microgravity, astronauts perform a range of exercises each 24-hour period. These exercises are designed to help maintain good cardiovascular health, promote proper blood flow to all organs and reduce the incidence of muscle loss and bone weakening during the flight.
- The record for the longest stay in space belongs to Dr. Valeri Polyakov. A Russian cosmonaut, Dr. Polyakov remained on the space station Mir for 418 days. Mir was host to many astronauts and cosmonauts for more than a decade.
- Crumbly foods are not consumed during space missions. This is because stray crumbs can get into the equipment and cause serious issues with essential systems. Processed foods that are self-contained are dietary staples because there is no opportunity to escape and float away in the low-gravity environment.