Dutch Astronaut André Kuipers Reveals He Accidentally Called 911 From Space

It turns out that butt-dialing is still a thing in outer space.

byMarco Margaritoff| UPDATED Jan 4, 2019 3:44 PM
Dutch Astronaut André Kuipers Reveals He Accidentally Called 911 From Space

Dutch astronaut André Kuipers accidentally called 911 while aboard the International Space Station (ISS) in an attempt to reach NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Newsweek reports

Kuipers revealed the mistake on the radio via the Dutch public broadcasting organization Nederlandse Omroep Stichting (NOS). The incident occurred at some point over the course of his 203 days in space across two missions between 2004 and 2011, and as the man himself explained, such a seemingly rare mistake is actually quite easy to make, even when you’re off-planet. 

On all accounts, the process to reach an international line seems very much the same as it does for someone calling from a space station as it is for someone calling from a landline in any non-U.S. location that has more than one connection. The 60-year-old astronaut explained you first have to dial 9 to reach an outside line, followed by 011 for an international number. The comedy of errors began when he mistakenly omitted one of the four digits. 

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

The Houston center then received a security alert and had staff on the ground make sure their connections to Kuipers’ space station hadn’t been obstructed in any way that would have him attempt to reach American emergency services instead. 

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

We’ve come a long way since man’s first ventures to the final frontier, and fortunately, live in a time where communication between astronauts orbiting our planet and their ground-based counterparts is easier than ever. NASA recently released a music video shot by astronauts aboard the ISS, for instance, with its lead singer even documenting the 2018 F1, IndyCar, and MotoGP seasons during his mission. 

Kuipers told the NOS that giving somebody a call is actually quite simple, with the primary drawback being a time delay that reduced a normal conversation to a comedic a puzzle of timing. Though he said that astronauts can reach Earth-based phones via satellites around 70 percent of the time, he’s had to learn how to use the time delay to his advantage. 

“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 said.

Primarily, of course, we hope Kuipers managed to reach the person he tried to call in the first place. Otherwise, they’ll just have to hear about him accidentally prank-calling 911 from space, and wait to hear a somewhat delayed version of that story when he actually does dial the right number.