“150 Irigoyen, you said?” The innocent question made by an apparent taxi driver has become a sensation in Argentina after the driver’s taxi radio interfered with the signal from the International Space Station and popped up live during NASA’s live broadcast of a spacewalk.
Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin worked overnight on Tuesday to move a radiator from the ISS’ Rassvet module to the Nauka science module, spending a total of seven hours and 55 minutes outside the space station. During their spacewalk, the ISS passed over Argentina several times. It was 12:30 a.m. ET when things started to get weird.
At that time, reporter Manuel Mazzanti was watching NASA’s live broadcast of the spacewalk on the agency’s official channel when he suddenly heard a voice with an Argentinian accent. It appeared to be a taxi driver on his radio confirming whether he had understood an address correctly: Irigoyen (or perhaps Yrigoyen) 150.
The interference was loud and clear, but only lasted three seconds. The NASA TV presenter reacted quickly and apologized for the blip, saying it was a “hot mic.” You can see the moment this happened in a clip Mazzanti posted on Twitter.
There are still many unanswered questions about this funny incident. First, where did the signal come from? The taxi driver, delivery worker, or messenger involved hasn’t released any information to the public, so we can only speculate.
As for where exactly the address in question is in Argentina, that’s complicated. It could be Bernardo de Irigoyen or Hipólito Yrigoyen, and there are dozens of avenues, boulevards, and streets with those names in Argentina. For example, I’m an Argentinian expat, and I lived at Bernardo de Irigoyen 476 for the majority of my childhood.
There’s also an avenue called Hipólito Yrigoyen in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, so we can’t rule out that the taxi driver was Uruguayan and not Argentinian. But given the location of the ISS at the moment of the incident, it’s more likely that the signal came from the province of Buenos Aires in Argentina.
Twitter has, as usual, presented various theories. Some say address refers to a bakery at Avenida Hipólito Yrigoyen 150 in Moron, a city in Buenos Aires province, although I imagine it would have been closed at 1:30 a.m. local time. Other said the address referred to a house located at Irigoyen 150 in Villa Martelli. Overall, it’s impossible to figure it out with such few clues.
The second question is: What happened? It appears that somehow, a local radio signal interfered with the ISS’ VHF or UHF signal. It’s possible that the taxi driver was using a frequency assigned to NASA or Roscosmos, which might be why their analog signal ended up where it shouldn’t have. Again, I’m only speculating.
The ISS was flying 267 miles (430 kilometers) above Argentina during the incident, which is quite a lot even by VHF standards, but there aren’t many obstacles beyond the atmosphere. It could have also been interfering with a station on Earth. In the end, the NASA presenter confused what happened with an open mic, and the spacewalk continued business as usual.
Gizmodo reached out to NASA for comment on Thursday but did not receive a response.
Argentinians, meanwhile, welcomed the incident with pride, declaring that they were “the best country in the world” and singing the country’s World Cup anthem. Others stated that the incident was “simply Argentina, you wouldn’t understand.”