The U.K.’s first “official” astronaut has learned one difference between his current duties and his past jobs as a helicopter test pilot for the British Army and AgustaWestland: few people notice when a “rotorhead” dials a wrong number.
Tim Peake, an astronaut for the European Space Agency, is among three new crewmembers on the International Space Station. While other U.K. citizens have flown in space as NASA astronauts, they changed citizenship to do so (or held dual citizenship in the U.K. and U.S.).
Given Peake’s pioneering role as Britain’s first publicly funded astronaut, millions in the U.K. have been following his space travels. So when Peake used his Twitter account Dec. 24 to apologize to a woman for accidentally dialing her phone number, the slip became international news.
“I’d like to apologize to the lady I just called by mistake saying ‘Hello, is this planet Earth?’” Peake tweeted, adding that it was “not a prank call — just a wrong number!” Peake has more than 290,000 followers on Twitter.
The retired teacher whose number Peake misdialed, 79-year-old Betty Barker, told reporters she thought the caller was a pub-goer playing a prank. In reply to Peake’s question, she said, “I just said no — which I suppose is technically incorrect.”
Barker lives not far from Peake’s family in the southeast England county of Sussex. Hearing no giggling or pub-like noise on the line, she said, “I thought it must have been someone looking to go to a nightclub called Planet Earth.”