André Kuipers is an astronaut who wanted to contact NASA while orbiting in the space station above Earth. In an interview on a radio program, he talked about his missions and the way astronauts communicate with the Earth via satellites. Kuipers wanted to contact NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, but instead of the necessary number he had to hit, it turned out that the astronaut called 911 instead.
But, how did the call to the U.S. emergency services happen? The 60-year-old astronaut said that in order to contact Earth, they have to dial 9 to reach the outside line, and then 011 for the international line. However, floating with no gravity can be more challenging for astronauts than you think, despite the training they go through before embarking on a space journey. That said, he mistakenly missed the 0 and called 911 accidentally.
“I made a mistake, and the next day I received an email message: did you call 911?” He said in an interview.
His mistake didn’t go unnoticed by NASA. Instead, it triggered a security alert at the Houston center, he explained further. The space agency had the emergency staff check the room where the space station’s phone line is connected to Earth. Fortunately, they didn’t grab a rocket to come to the space station to make sure everything was alright. “I was a little disappointed that they had not come up,” he added jokingly.
Kuipers is no novice to space travel. In fact, he successfully completed two space missions lasting 203 days in total. He explained that it’s fairly easy to communicate with the planet even while orbiting inside the space station. Thanks to the satellites, astronauts are able to reach the phone lines on Earth about 70% of the time.
Of course, calls from space are not as perfect as the ones on Earth. Technical problems arise at times, making it harder to reach and with a little lag time, to call friends to talk to them, similar to what our first Skype calls were like when we weren’t able to hear the other person perfectly.
“Sometimes people would hang up because they thought I did not say anything, so later on I started to talk as soon as I had dialed the last number,” he recalled.
Unfortunately for the astronauts, if a real emergency were to arise at the space station, the astronauts would need to deal with it themselves, for which they are all trained.