NASA Clarifies Absence of Emergency on International Space Station Following Astronaut Medical Drill Audio Confusion

A recent incident sparked panic after a NASA livestream broadcasted an emergency situation involving an astronaut suffering from decompression sickness on the International Space Station (ISS). The distressing scenario, which included a flight surgeon stuck in traffic providing advice, was later revealed to be audio from a ground simulation that had been accidentally aired on NASA’s public broadcast.

NASA officials quickly clarified that there was no actual emergency aboard the ISS. The audio, which was broadcasted for approximately eight minutes, was part of an ongoing training simulation for crew members and ground teams to prepare for various potential scenarios in space. The simulation scenario included details such as getting the astronaut into a spacesuit quickly and administering pure oxygen, and planning for emergency hypobaric treatment at a hospital in Spain after an ocean splashdown return to Earth.

Decompression sickness is a genuine risk for astronauts in space due to their residence in a pressurized habitat within the vacuum of space. The condition can occur during spacewalks when astronauts, in pressurized spacesuits, exit and reenter the ISS by depressurizing and repressurizing the airlock. The suits are only removed once equilibrium is reached inside the ISS.

NASA reiterated that no part of the simulation was real and the current ISS crew, comprising three Russian cosmonauts and six NASA astronauts, were not involved in the medical drill. The crew, some of whom had just arrived on Boeing’s maiden crewed Starliner spacecraft, were asleep during the incident.

The crew is currently preparing for a spacewalk aimed at collecting a faulty radio communications unit and gathering sample swabs of the ISS exterior to study microorganisms in extreme space environments. The spacewalk, involving NASA astronauts Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Matthew Dominick, is expected to last over six hours. NASA assured that all crew members remain healthy and safe, and the spacewalk will proceed as planned.

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