During a spacewalk around the ISS, two cosmonauts heard an Argentinian taxi driver, the fault of their radio.
On the night of Tuesday to Wednesday, two Russian cosmonauts carried out an exit outside the space station. Broadcast live, the latter suffered a small technical hiccup. As the International Space Station (ISS) flew over Argentina, the voice of a taxi driver was heard amid communications between Earth and space.
Freelance journalist Manuel Mazzanti was the first to hear this voice unlike any other. This little interference, which only lasted three seconds, shows one of NASA’s biggest problems, however. While the American space agency tries to communicate with astronauts permanently (something possible since Thomas Pesquet’s Proxima program in 2016), the frequencies used are not unlimited.
The excerpt from the interference can be found here. Live on the NASA YouTube channel, while the situation was quite quiet (as often during a spacewalk), the voice of this driver was heard very clearly.
Some of the frequencies used by NASA are obviously used by other people. If the American space agency has not yet spoken officially on this small technical problem, the interference seems to come from the region of Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina. This densely populated region is inhabited by nearly 18 million people.
It will be almost impossible to trace all these inhabitants to find out which one was at the origin of this interference or for what reason it used one of the NASA frequencies to communicate with the ISS. The International Space Station communicates with the Earth via the VHF or UHF signal depending on the origin of the communications (American or Russian).
An already historic spacewalk
Cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin were at the forefront of this small technical problem. They were off the ISS for 7 hours and 55 minutes. Their mission was to move a radiator from the Rassvet module to the new Russian Nauka module recently installed on the ISS.
These exits are quite common around the ISS. The International Space Station often needs small external interventions, starting with the refurbishment of the solar panels. During his last visit to the ISS, our national astronaut Thomas Pesquet had spent nearly 7 hours outside the station, bringing his total time in the vacuum of space to 39 hours and 54 minutes, more than any other European.