Here’s a great excuse for bad phone reception — being in outer space. This, at least, was the reasoning some astronauts could have given to Adrian Lane, a 52-year-old radio operator who managed to call the International Space Station and speak with a few astronauts flying miles and miles above him. After learning that the path of the ISS would intersect with his home on Earth, Lane apparently spent weeks planning the perfect moment to make his move and call up outer space, and much to his (and everyone’s) delight, he succeeded in speaking to the astronauts aboard the craft for a solid 50 seconds.
As it turns out, such an enterprise isn’t all that uncommon. In fact, there’s an entire page dedicated to contacting the ISS — according to the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station website, “Some ISS crew members make random, unscheduled, amateur radio voice contacts with earth-bound radio amateurs, often called ‘hams.'” More surprising still, the ISS has apparently made thousands of similar phone calls, with the only real limiting factor being the astronauts’ work schedules and, you know, the availability of signal.
As per Mr. Lane’s recounting of his brief conversation with the ISS, he was greeted by a voice saying, “Receiving you – welcome aboard the International Space Station.” After overcoming his initial shock and awe, Lane managed to ask “what the stars looked like from up there,” to which the astronaut responded that “with no atmosphere up here the stars are really bright.”
Lane also remembered the voice at the other end of the line telling him, “…When you look down on Earth it’s something else — it’s just a mass of color where everything else up here is black.” A very different view, to be sure, than that of Lane’s, who made the call from a shed in his backyard garden.
So the next time the ISS plans to be flying over your neck of the woods, give an extra long distance phone call a try. You never know who may answer.