A Dutch astronaut unknowingly called 911 from space while orbiting Earth on the International Space Station (ISS).
André Kuipers told the Netherland’s public broadcaster Nederlandse Omroep Stichying that he called US emergency services after mistakenly dialing the wrong number while trying to contact NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
“If you’re in space, and you’re making a call via Houston, first you dial the 9 for an outside line, and then 011 for an international line,” the 60-year-old astronaut and physician said, according to a translation from the science and technology website Futurism.
But Kuipers accidentally typed in a 1 instead of a zero, missed the zero altogether, and ended up calling 911 instead of 9011.
The misdial set off a security alert at the Johnson Space Center center, with staff wondering if all was well.
Kuipers, who just rounded up his second space mission, and has spent a total of over 200 days in space said that the next day he received an email from Houston, asking if he had called 911.
“I was a little disappointed that they had not come up,” he joked.
Kuipers is surprised at how rather easy it is to contact Earth from space, and that astronauts can use terrestrial phones via satellites about 70% of the time.
He however notes that, there is usually a time lag which makes it difficult to hold conversations with people on Earth.
“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.
This isn’t the first time an astronaut has dialed the wrong number from ISS.
In 2015, Britain’s first astronaut, Tim Peak, clarified that he hadn’t prank called a woman when he called from space and said “Hello, is this planet Earth?” He’d actually just dialed the wrong number.