911 call from space

A Dutch astronaut accidentally called 911 in the United States while in orbit above the earth.

No, we are not making this up.

Dutch astronaut André Kuipers appeared on a radio program recently and said that while he was trying to contact NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, he mistakenly called the U.S. emergency services number instead.

“The 60-year-old said that to reach the center in Houston, orbiting astronauts have to dial 9 for an outside line, followed by 011 for an international line,” Newsweek reports. “But of course, doing so while floating around in space is trickier than from a desk on Earth.”

“I made a mistake, and the next day I received an email message: did you call 911?” Kuipers said.

He also joked, “I was a little disappointed that they had not come up.”

“I made a mistake, and the next day I received an email message: did you call 911?”

Kuipers said many would be surprised at how easy it is to communicate with the Earth from a space station in orbit. He said that about 70 percent of the time, astronauts can reach terrestrial phones via satellites.

Who knew?

“He would have to deal with some technical hurdles when saying hello to friends on the ground though,” Newsweek notes. “For example, a significant time delay would make it difficult to have a proper conversation.”

“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,” the astronaut recalled.

It’s not only amazing that this accident call to 911 from space happened but so marvelous that communication from earth to orbit can happen so seamlessly. We expect the technology available at NASA to be able to reach space – but how many of us thought we could reach space via a smartphone or landline?

Regardless, it’s probably best to leave the 911 lines exclusively open for emergencies on earth, at least for the time being.

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