Wrong Number! Here's What Happened When a Dutch Astronaut Accidentally Called 911 from Space

Astronaut and Oranges Float in Expedition 30 Spacecraft
European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers shares space with some floating fruit in the Unity node of the International Space Station. Image released Feb. 16, 2012. (Image credit: NASA)

This probably tops your most embarrassing butt-dial moment: Back in 2012, Dutch astronaut André Kuipers mistakenly called 911 from the International Space Station (ISS).

"If you're in space, it's like you are making a call via Houston — first you dial the 9 for an outside line, and then 011 for an international line," Kuipers told the Dutch outlet Nederlandse Omroep Stichting earlier this month. (The article is in Dutch; the quotes here are provided by Google Translate.)

"I missed the 0, and indeed there was a report at the Houston alarm center: something happened in the Johnson Space Center, and security went off and they went to the room where the call came from," Kuipers recalled. "There was no one on the ground, but there was the line where the space station came in. I was a little disappointed that they had not come upstairs."

Kuipers isn't the only astronaut to come down with a case of fumble fingers in orbit; British astronaut Tim Peake had a similar issue a few years back.

"I'd like to apologise to the lady I just called by mistake saying 'Hello, is this planet Earth?' — not a prank call ... just a wrong number!" Peake tweeted in December 2015.

The 60-year-old Kuipers, a physician by training, has retired from the European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut corps. He flew to the ISS twice during his spaceflight career, spending a brief nine days aboard the orbiting lab in 2004, then living off Earth again from December 2011 through July 2012.

Peake, 46, is an active ESA astronaut. He has one spaceflight under his belt, serving aboard the orbiting lab from December 2015 until June 2016. 

Mike Wall's book about the search for alien life, "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate) is out now. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us @Spacedotcom or Facebook. Originally published on Space.com

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.

Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.