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Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai sorry for growth spurt 'mistake'

Japan's ISS astronaut Norishige Kanai has apologized for claiming that he had grown 9 centimeters (3.5 inches) during his first few weeks in space. Kanai said his statement was "fake news" due to a "measurement mistake."

Three astronauts in space suits prepare for takeoff in Kazakhstan (Reuters/M. Shipenkov)

Kanai (L) arrived to the ISS on 17th of December

Norishige Kanai, the Japanese astronaut who grabbed international attention by reporting an unprecedented growth spurt in space, apologetically recanted his earlier claims on Wednesday. Kanai is a member of a six-person team currently aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

"I must apologize for this terrible fake news," he tweeted in Japanese.

The 41-year-old Kanai, who stands at 180 centimeters (5 ft 11) on Earth, had claimed that his height has increased by 9 centimeters (3.5 inches) after spending only a few weeks in space.

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Astronauts often experience increase in height during space missions, as low-gravity environment drastically reduces pressure on their spines and allows the vertebrae to spread apart. This increase is usually limited to a few centimeters.

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 Kanai had joked that his growth spurt was making him "a bit worried" he would not be able to fit back into the return capsule this summer.

"My height's been measured here in space and somehow, somehow, I've grown 9 cm!" he tweeted on Monday. "I grew like a plant in just three weeks. Nothing like this since high school. I'm a bit worried whether I'll fit in the Soyuz seat when I go back."

The story made rounds around the world. Kanai, a former medical diver for the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, is already noticeably taller than the average Japanese man, who stands around 171 centimeters tall.

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On Wednesday, however, Kanai said that he re-measured himself on the advice of the Russian commander Anton Shkaplerov and determined that he only grew 2 centimeters.

"So it was a measurement mistake (?), but it seems many people are talking about it," the astronaut said from orbit, also praising the experience of Shkaplerov for noticing the unlikely measurement.

This is Kanai's first mission in space. He arrived at the ISS in December and is scheduled to return to Earth after spending nearly six months aboard the station.

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dj/msh (Reuters, AFP)

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