A few days ago, the anniversary of a historic phrase was remembered. It was uttered in April 1970. NASA’s Apollo 13 mission recorded an anomaly during its outbound journey to the Moon. And this would end up becoming a real space odyssey. That’s why the anniversary of “Houston, we have a problem” is remembered.
Two days after liftoff, at 21.08, something happened. Astronaut Jack Swigert contacted mission control. What did he tell them? “Okay, Houston, we’ve had a problem here.” He said this just after observing a warning light on the spacecraft control panel, accompanied by a bang. What had happened? This turned out to be the explosion of the oxygen tanks in the service module.
From Houston, it was answered “This is Houston. Repeat, please.” Next, the mission commander, Jim Lovell, repeated. “Hey, Houston, we’ve had a problem.” “We have a brownout on BUS MAIN B,” he added. “Roger, brownout on MAIN BUS B,” was replied from Earth. “Okay, stand by Thirteen, we’re checking it out,” was added.
Meanwhile, a large number of warning lights came on in series. They were indicating the loss of two of the three power generating sources.
As a result, NASA was forced to abandon its plans for the third manned lunar landing. The destroyed tanks provided life support for the astronauts. Therefore, the new challenge was to return them safely to Earth.
The rescue plan was to use the Aquarius lunar module as a lifeboat. They hoped to take advantage of the inertia of passing through lunar orbit to gain speed and be able to reach Earth. The failure of the lunar mission ended up being a success in space history. The three astronauts made it back to Earth alive.
So the anniversary of “Houston, we have a problem” is something worth remembering. Moreover, the phrase became popular within colloquial speech. It is used to informally report the occurrence of an unforeseen problem.