"Houston, we have a problem” was the alleged statement made from Apollo 13 to Houston space command in April 1970. The actual statement differs slightly from that. Apollo 13 successfully returned to earth, despite the problem. The film Apollo 13 (1995) by director Ron Howard starred Tom Hanks.
The phrase is still used if there’s any problem in the city of Houston, or with its sports teams.
From the Apollo 13 Air-To-Ground Technical Voice Transcription, found at http://www.hq.nasa.gov/alsj/frame.html,
SWIGERT (LMP): Okay, Houston--
LOVELL (CDR): I believe we’ve had a problem here.
CAPCOM (CC): This is Houston. Say again, please.
LOVELL: Houston, we’ve had a problem.
Apollo 13 was the third American manned lunar landing mission, part of the Apollo program. Two days after launch, the Apollo Spacecraft was crippled by an explosion, causing the Service Module portion of the Apollo Command/Service Module to lose its oxygen and electrical power. The crew used the Lunar Module as a lifeboat in space. The command module systems remained functional but were deactivated to preserve its capability to re-enter earth’s atmosphere upon return to the earth. The crew endured difficult conditions due to severe constraints on power, cabin heat, and drinkable water, but successfully returned to Earth.
James A. Lovell (flew on Gemini 7, Gemini 12, Apollo 8 and Apollo 13), commander
John L. Swigert (flew on Apollo 13), command module pilot (replacing original CMP, Ken Mattingly)
Fred W. Haise (flew on Apollo 13 and Space Shuttle Enterprise), lunar module pilot
Oxygen tank explosion
April 14, 1970, 02:08:53.555 UTC
321,860 km from earth.
Famous misquote: “Houston, we have a problem”
Actual quote: “Okay, Houston, we’ve had a problem here” , uttered by Swigert to ground. Lovell then uttered this similar phrase: “Houston, we’ve had a problem.”
Memorable Quotes from
Apollo 13 (1995)
Jim Lovell: Houston, we have a problem.
14 April 1970, Chicago Tribune, “A Cool Voice from Space Tells of Woe” by Stephen Crews, pg. 1:
Houston, April 13—The voice from Apollo 13 was crisp and cool tonight when the first word came—“Hey, we’ve got a problem here.”
It was the voice of Astronaut Fred Haise. The tone of it seemed strangely business-like for a man who was outward bound from earth, more than 205,000 miles in space.
“We had a pretty large bang associated with the caution and warning [alarm] here,” Haise said.
14 April 1970, Indiana (PA) Evening Gazette, pg. 3:
Had A Problem”
SPACE CENTER, Houston (AP)—With the words “Houston, we’ve had a problem,” Apollo 13 commander James A. Lovell Jr. alerted the ground controllers that the planned lunar landing mission was in trouble.
Here are the highlights of the exchange between the spacecraft (SC) and the capsule communicator (CapCom) in Mission Control.
SC: “Hey, we’ve had a problem. We’ve had a main B bus interval (a main circuit had broken).
19 April 1970, Washington Post, “Crisis in Houston: The Fight to Save Apollo” by Thomas O’Toole, pg. 1:
Houston confirmed to the three men the loss of their main sources of power of oxygen and of water and the prospect that they might never return to earth.
It began in the flat, unexcited voice the world has learned to expect from astronauts.
“Hey, we’ve got a problem here,” Lovell radioed.
“Houston, we’ve had a problem. We’ve had a Main B bus interval...and we had a pretty large bang associated with the caution and warning there...and if I recall, Main B was the one that had an amp spike on it once before.”
Nobody knew it at the time, but the “large bang” had come from one of two tanks in Odyssey’s service module that supplied all its oxygen for electricity and the crew’s breathing.
13 June 1970, Chicago Tribune, “Positive Thought Conquers Fear” by Norman Vincent Peale, pg. S11:
“WE’VE GOT A PROBLEM!” That phrase achieved immortality when radioed across 205,000 miles of space from Jim Lovell in Apollo 13 to the mission control in Houston.
“We’ve got a problem.” What a quiet, calm way to inform the waiting millions that something had gone wrong, that three brave men on a voyage to the moon might never see earth again!
Apollo 13 was of course a triumph of teamwork, ingenuity, and initiative.
1 March 1974, Washington Post, “A Problem With ‘a Problem’” by John Carmody, pg. C7:
Former astronaut James A. Lovell, who commanded the jinxed Apollo 13 space flight in 1970, has complained to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) that a made-for-tv movie based on the mission is “fictitious and in poor taste.”
The film, “Houston, We Have a Problem,” will be seen Saturday night at 8:30 on Channel 7 (WMAL). It was produced for ABC-TV by Universal Television.
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