We’ve all been butt-dialed. But have you ever considered what would happen if you punched in the wrong number while orbiting around Earth? Houston, we’ve got a problem.
In a new radio interview with Dutch public broadcaster Nederlandse Omroep Stichting, Netherlands astronaut André Kuipers recalled how he accidentally ended up calling American emergency services while on board the International Space Station (ISS).
Kuipers explained that phone calls from the ISS are routed through NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
“If you’re in space, it’s like you’re making a call via Houston, first you dial the 9 for an outside line, and then 011 for an international line,” Kuipers tells NOS, according to Google Translate. “I made a mistake. The next day I received an email message: did you call 911?”
While there’s a longer-than-usual delay of data transfer from Earth to the ISS, long-distance phone calls are readily available to crew members, NASA Flight Director Holly Ridings told Space Answers in a 2013 interview. Thanks to the immense distance the signal has to travel from Earth via a relay satellite and then to the ISS, there’s a bit of a delay — but usually still less than a second.
But if there were a real emergency on the space station, the astronauts would have to deal with it themselves. Emergency services on Earth are way too far away.
READ MORE: Astronaut accidentally calls 911 from space [Newsweek]
More on living on board the ISS: A Day on — The ISS Edition