Study will see why astronauts get taller

Jan. 2, 2013 at 3:26 PM
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GREENBELT, Md., Jan. 2 (UPI) -- NASA says it will use ultrasound technology to study why astronauts aboard the International Space Station grow as much as 3 percent taller in space.

Astronauts get measurably taller after a few months in microgravity although they return to their normal height upon returning to Earth, the space agency said Wednesday.

NASA's Spinal Ultrasound investigation will utilize a new ultrasound instrument onboard the ISS to allow researchers to analyze the phenomenon's impact on the spine.

"This is the very first time that spinal ultrasound will be used to evaluate the changes in the spine," Scott A. Dulchavsky, principal investigator for the station study, said. "Spinal ultrasound is more challenging to perform than many of the previous ultrasound examinations done in space.

"Today there is a new ultrasound device on the station that allows more precise musculoskeletal imaging required for assessment of the complex anatomy and the spine," he said. "The crew will be able to perform these complex evaluations in the next year due to a newly developed Just-In-Time training guide for spinal ultrasound, combined with refinements in crew training and remote guidance procedures."

Six ISS crew members will serve as test subjects for the spinal ultrasound scans.

One goal of the research is to develop exercises for better crew health in space and improved rehabilitation techniques when astronauts return to Earth, NASA said.

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