NASA accidentally broadcasts simulation of astronaut in distress

NASA accidentally aired a medical drill meant for training on an official livestream which simulated an astronaut being treated for decompression sickness on the International Space Station (ISS) - prompting alarm on social media.

The audio, which was broadcast on NASA's live YouTube channel, captured a female voice instructing crew members to "get commander back in his suit", check his pulse and provide him with oxygen - with the prognosis later described as "tenuous".

Recordings of the audio quickly spread on social media, sparking fears of a serious emergency on the ISS.

"Some very odd, and disturbing, audio just aired on the ISS YouTube feed," posted one person on X.

"Something is very not right about this," wrote another.

Decompression sickness, which is caused by nitrogen or other gas bubbles in the bloodstream due to a change in atmospheric pressure, can affect the central nervous system and is potentially fatal.

However, NASA confirmed there was "no emergency situation" on the ISS and that the audio was inadvertently broadcast from a simulation where crew members and ground teams train for various scenarios in space.

"There is no emergency situation going on aboard the International Space Station," NASA's ISS account posted on X.

It said at around 5:28pm CDT (10.30pm GMT) "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 (DCS)".

"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."

Crew members on the ISS were in their "sleep period" at the time the drill on the ground inadvertently aired, it said.

A spacewalk scheduled for 8am EDT on Thursday would go ahead as planned, NASA added.

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SpaceX also clarified that what people heard "was only a test".

The crew training in Hawthorne, California, were "safe and healthy", it said.

Space enthusiasts on Earth were relieved to learn what they had heard was a training exercise:

"This was our 'War of the Worlds' transmission. I'm glad it wasn't real, those were some very believable comms," wrote one on X.

"You freaked us out," posted another. "The world was scared for a brief time," said another.