During their space missions, why do astronauts grow taller? Why does the heart muscle become smaller?

German space medicine expert Birgitta Ganze said that astronauts grow taller during space missions due to lack of gravity.

Janze, a professor at the University of Saarland in Homburg, in the German state of Saarland, said that the spinal discs expand, and the average person’s length increases by 5 and a half centimeters during the first 24 hours, and when he returns to the ground he returns to his original length.

Janze is closely following the six-month mission by German astronaut Matthias Mauer, 51, aboard the International Space Station.

German astronaut Matthias Maurer delivers a speech at a press conference before his mission to the International Space Station (French)

Janze stated that there is another short-term change that occurs in the astronauts’ body, which is the displacement of fluids in the body towards the upper part and head. The expert, who previously worked at the German Aerospace Center in Cologne, said that this “leads to 5.1 liters of water urinating in the first 24 hours, and the face becomes very full and the legs become very thin,” explaining that gravity usually draws water to the legs, but with its absence. It does not happen.

Janze stated that the muscles deteriorate in the long term because they are not used in the absence of gravity, and said that “moving from one place to another in space only requires pushing a heavy object,” adding that the heart muscle becomes smaller as well.

She explained that the astronauts on board the International Space Station practice physical exercises for two and a half hours daily, noting that the astronauts use a stationary bike with shoes on the pedals in the exercises, in addition to a strength-training device and a treadmill to which the astronaut attaches himself with rubber straps.

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station practice physical training for two and a half hours a day (French)

On the other hand, Janzeh explained that in future missions to Mars, for example, it will not be possible to take these devices due to lack of space, explaining that the search is being done for other ways to prevent muscle contraction.

Janze said that she is currently preparing research on electrical stimulation in cooperation with an international group, and said, “If the muscles are stimulated with electricity, the person may not need much training,” explaining that this will also save a lot of space on board the spaceship.

It is scheduled that 16 astronauts will participate in this experiment aboard the International Space Station in the coming years.

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