In space no one can hear you scream and, as it turns out, no one can respond to your 911 calls either. Dutch astronaut André Kuipers found that out first hand when he accidentally dialed the emergency services number while attempting to place a call to Earth from the International Space Station.
In a recent interview, the now-retired astronaut revealed his humorous blunder, noting that the phone call system from aboard the ISS made it easy to accidentally hit 911. In case you were wondering: No, an ambulance wasn’t dispatched to his location.
Kuipers says that the two-step process for making a call to his homeland let to the mishap. In order to get an external line the caller first has to dial 9. Then, to place an international call, the caller has to hit 011, followed by the actual phone number of the person they are trying to contact. In this case, Kuipers totally missed the “0” and ended up dialing 911 straight away.
Apparently the SNAFU caused a bit of a headache for NASA mission control and, when the 911 call set off an alert, staff scrambled to check the room where ISS links up with Earth’s communications grid to make sure someone wasn’t in danger.
Perhaps not fully realizing how serious his missed dial was, it wasn’t until the following day that Kuipers was found to be the culprit. “I made a mistake, and the net day I received an email message,” he explains. “Did you call 911?”
Kuipers has stayed aboard the International Space Station twice. His first trip was a brief stay in April of 2004 that lasted just 11 days, but he was also a crew member of Expeditions 30 and 31 which lasted from late December 2011 through July of 2012.