Astronaut 'distress' message sent in error, Nasa confirms

A photo issued by Nasa of the International Space Station (PA)
A photo issued by Nasa of the International Space Station (PA)

Nasa has confirmed that an audio clip widely shared on social media, featuring astronauts in distress, was a simulation mistakenly broadcast on its YouTube channel.

The clip, intended for training purposes, included a voice saying that an astronaut on the International Space Station (ISS) had a "tenuous" chance of survival.

The broadcast on Wednesday evening sparked online speculation about a possible emergency in space. However, Nasa has now reassured the public that all ISS members are safe.

"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 US space agency said.

Elon Musk-owned SpaceX also confirmed on social media that there was no emergency aboard the ISS.

The incident led some to believe that an astronaut was suffering from decompression sickness in space. This belief was fuelled by the fact that the audio was broadcast on an official Nasa channel, rather than from dubious sources.

The audio, shared widely on social media, featured someone asking the ISS crew to help an astronaut into his spacesuit, check his pulse and provide oxygen.

Decompression sickness, typically associated with scuba diving, occurs when bubbles form inside the body due to changes in external pressure. Astronauts follow protocols to remove nitrogen from theirbodies to prevent this in space.

Nasa said that its crew members on the ISS were asleep at the time of the broadcast in preparation for a spacewalk at 1pm on Thursday, which will proceed as planned.