The truth on "Houston, we have (had) a problem"



Astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert are the men who have gone the farthest in space, reaching 400,171 km (254 km farther than the Moon) from the Earth. They could also hold the world record for the most famous (and distorted) spatial quote (after that of Neil Armstrong), the most repeated in the space history of mankind: "Houston, we had a ... problem."

Story of their journey is particularly hectic. From the outset, a problem arises: the control module's driver, Ken Mattingly, caught an accursed measles and is forced to stay on ground. No matters, helpful Jack Swigert will replace. Troubles again when launched: one of the five engines of the second stage is taking holidays and refuses to work. 4 out of 5, it'll be ok nonetheless. Apollo 13 finally reaches space and the true mission can begin : towards the Moon!

Mission goes well, more or less, correctly, during firsts hours, but the second day, took place on key moment that will go down in history: April 14 at 3:07, the oxygen tank #2 explodes while astronauts are more than 320,000 km from Earth. The lunar landing mission is canceled and here come times for repairs - MacGyver way. Fortunately, the ingenuity of the team allows the astronauts to return home to Earth, unharmed. 

It was during this explosion that the contact was broken momentarily : when it returns, Jack Swigert told the ground crew: "Houston, we had a problem.". Actually, Jack Swigert's words were later distorted by cinema and popular culture in Houston, we have a problem - because true sentence suggested that the problem was already solved, which, indeed, totally ruins the dramatic tension. 

Return trip to Earth took place smoothly, given the circumstances, except that the water rationing had caused Fred Haise an urinary infection, so he unfortunately went back to Earth with a fever. Which basically made him the first man who managed to get sick in space (space sickness excepted).

This link points out to the real record of Jack Swigert's message to Earth control at Houston, that you can listen onto the official NASA website.
Original source (fr) : le voyage le plus éloignée dans l'espace. www.records-du-monde.com