But this Japanese astronaut shot up 3½ inches

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A Japanese astronaut who is living on the International Space Station says he has grown 9cm (3.5in) since arriving there just over three weeks ago.

Norishige Kanai told his social media followers on Twitter that he is now anxious he might not fit into the seat of the Russian Soyuz vehicle that is due to bring him home in June.

He tweeted: "Good morning, everybody". I've had physical measurements since I got to space, and, wow, I've grown by up to nine centimetres.

He said he had grown the remarkable amount since arriving there just over three weeks ago. This extra growth may actually be a major problem, and has the astronaut concerned that he might not actually be able to fit into the Soyuz capsule which is meant to carry him back to Earth.

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There's a very real problem with astronauts experiencing premature aging while in space, and this is usually controlled by limiting the length of time spent on the space station with relatively regular trips back down to Earth.

The phenomenon of astronauts growing due to the low gravity of space is well known and they do return to their normal height upon their return. He launched on December 17 with returning Russian astronaut Anton Shkaplerov and rookie NASA astronaut Scott Tingle.

Libby Jackson of the UK Space Agency explained his growth was more than expected but did not express concern he could not return to earth.

The Soyuz spacecraft which takes the astronauts from and to Earth has a strict limit on seating height.

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"Nine centimetres is a lot, but it is possible, knowing that every human body is different".

Some growth in space is normal, but the extent to which Kanai grew - an astonishing 9cm - is unprecedented.

"I have no back pains, and actually the pain around my neck and shoulders is gone, so I doubt I'm 9 cm taller".

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