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Astronaut says pinched nerve is why NASA called off space station spacewalk

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei does a spacesuit fit check to prepare for an upcoming spacewalk at the International Space Station.
NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei does a spacesuit fit check to prepare for an upcoming spacewalk at the International Space Station. (Image credit: NASA)

NASA postponed a spacewalk this week after one of its astronauts suffered from a pinched nerve while working at the International Space Station

Expedition 65 flight engineer Mike Vande Hei of NASA was scheduled to take a 6.5-hour spacewalk with Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) today (Aug. 24), but NASA called off the spacewalk with less than 24 hours' notice on Monday (Aug. 23), citing a "minor medical issue involving Vande Hei."

"Thanks for everyone's concern. I have a pinched nerve in my neck that caused us to reschedule today's spacewalk," Vande Hei tweeted today. "The support from family, friends, and NASA leadership has been fantastic. I'm looking forward to installing this IROSA Mod kit. Today just wasn't the right day."

Related: An astronaut got a blood clot in space. Here's how doctors on Earth fixed it.

Today's planned spacewalk was not time-sensitive, and Vande Hei's pinched nerve was not considered a medical emergency, NASA officials said in a statement. Vande Hei and Hoshide were scheduled to continue ongoing work to install the International Space Station Roll-Out Solar Array, or iROSA, which will help beef up the station's power grid.

Pinched nerves can occur when pressure in tissues around a nerve disrupts its normal functions, which can cause pain as well as feelings of tingling, numbness and weakness, according to the Mayo Clinic. "With rest and other conservative treatments, most people recover from a pinched nerve within a few days or weeks," though occasionally patients do require surgery, the Mayo Clinic added. 

NASA has not yet announced a new date for the spacewalk, but it won't happen until after a pair of upcoming Russian spacewalks on Sept. 3 and Sept. 9, and the arrival of SpaceX's Dragon cargo spacecraft, currently scheduled for Aug. 28, NASA officials said. 

Vande Hei arrived at the International Space Station in April with cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov, flying on Russia's Soyuz MS-18 crew capsule, and he could spend up to a year at the orbiting laboratory before returning to Earth. 

Email Hanneke Weitering at hweitering@space.com or follow her on Twitter @hannekescience. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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Hanneke Weitering

Hanneke Weitering is an editor at Space.com with 10 years of experience in science journalism. She has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the Space.com team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time Hanneke likes to explore the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos.