911 Call From Space Station Sparks NASA Response

A 911 from space had security teams at NASA’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas in a scramble to respond. Dutch astronaut André Kuipers accidentally called 911 from the International Space Station when making a call to his headquarters back on Earth. The call resulted in NASA security being dispatched to the room where calls from the space station are patched in.

Kuipers was orbiting Earth in the International Space Station when he tried to make the call. He explained to Dutch public broadcaster Nederlandse Omroep Stichting, “First you dial the 9 for an outside line, and then 011 for an international line. I made a mistake.” He mistakenly left out the zero and the call ended up connecting to U.S. emergency services

The 60-year-old astronaut said that he hung up promptly when he realized his error. Unbeknownst to him, the call had already triggered an alert roughly 200 miles below at Mission Control in the Houston base. Kuipers said he only realized his mistake when he received an email the following day. He recalled, “The next day I received an email message: Did you call 911?”

Astronauts in the International Space Station have had the ability to make calls to people back on Earth for more than a decade now. The phone system that connects the space station to Earth uses voice over Internet protocol, which is the same technology used by Skype to place Internet calls between parties.

According to Kuipers, calls from the space station to Earth work about 70 percent of the time. He says that the biggest issue with the calls is the occasional delay between the time words are spoken and the time they are relayed through the receiver on the other end.