Nasa accidentally airs ‘scary’ audio of medical emergency drill on space station

Nasa accidentally airs ‘scary’ audio of medical emergency drill on space station

Nasa has denied there was a medical emergency aboard the International Space Station after it accidentally broadcast the audio feed of a drill simulating a crew member in extreme distress, sparking concern on social media.

“There is no emergency situation going on aboard the International Space Station. At approximately 5.28pm CDT, audio was aired on the Nasa livestream from a simulation audio channel on the ground indicating a crew member was experiencing effects related to decompression sickness,” the American space agency said.

“This audio was inadvertently misrouted from an ongoing simulation where crew members and ground teams train for various scenarios in space and is not related to a real emergency.

“The International Space Station crew members were in their sleep period at the time. All remain healthy and safe, and tomorrow’s spacewalk will start at 8am EDT as planned.”

Nasa’s space station livestream was “temporarily interrupted” at 5.30pm on Wednesday with a message saying it would return after the “connection is reestablished”.

In the background a person could be heard asking the commander into his suit, securing an oxygen mask and speaking about hyperbaric exposure, which is the process of breathing oxygen in a pressurised environment.

“So if we could get the commander back in his suit, get it sealed for suited hyperbaric treatment,” the person said. “Prior to sealing, closing the visor and pressurising the suit, I would like you to check his pulse one more time.”

The speaker said she was a flight surgeon at the SpaceX mission control centre in Hawthorne, California.

SpaceX, the private company which helps Nasa to send crew and cargo to the space station, too denied there was an emergency. “This was only a test. The crew training in Hawthorne is safe and healthy as is the Dragon spacecraft docked to the space station,” it said.

Soon after the audio was aired, people on social media, including open source intelligence trackers, said they were seeing “initial reports of a possible serious medical incident” on the space research station.

But space scientists monitoring the live feed quickly put such concerns to rest, saying it could be a drill.

“I can confirm with 100 percent confidence that there is no emergency on board the International Space Station. It was a sim not involving the crew,” said Eric Berger, a space editor at Ars Technica, after initially calling the audio “frankly scary”.

Nasa requires flight surgeons to be physicians with specialised training in aerospace medicine based at mission control centres.

After Nasa’s clarification, social media users heaved a sigh of relief. “You had a bunch of us about to turn blue,” one user replied under Nasa’s post on X.