Houston, We Have a Problem

Meaning

The phrase Houston, we have a problem is self-explanatory. It means that an unexpected issue has popped up.

Example #1: When Smith turned on the ignition to his car he heard a loud noise coming from the engine. Afterwards, he sighed and said: “Houston, we have a problem. I need to get this looked at.”
Example #2: Bonnie’s vegetable garden has grown nicely over the months. However, wild rabbits have been nibbling on her produce. Noticing this, she said: “Houston, we’ve got a problem.

Similar/Related: we have an issue on our hands, we’ve got a problem

the phrase - Houston, We Have a Problem.
Tip: Want to read about more expressions like this? We have a list of sayings and phrases starting with “H” that you can check out. Feel free to explore it and find one to learn about.

The Origin of ‘Houston, We Have a Problem’

When some people hear the phrase “Houston, we have a problem,” they might think of the 1995 movie Apollo 13 starring Tom Hanks and Kevin Bacon. However, this expression actually stems from the events that the movie is based on. So let’s take a closer look at those events to see what we can learn about the phrase’s origin.

The Apollo Program

In the year 1961, the Apollo program was started by NASA. One of the goals of this program was to land humans on the moon and then have them return to earth. In 1969, this goal was accomplished with the Apollo 11 mission. A famous phrase that came from this mission was: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” These words were spoken by the American astronaut, Neil Armstrong, when he set foot on the moon.

A year later, in 1970, there was Apollo 13. This mission was to be the third time that humans would set foot on the moon. However, something went wrong and it was aborted. What happened?

In short, an oxygen tank on the spacecraft failed a couple of days into the mission. After this issue was detected, astronaut Jack Swigert reported the incident to NASA’s Mission Control Center by saying, “Okay, Houston, we’ve had a problem here.” Mission Control then asked him to repeat the message. This is when mission commander, Jim Lovell, said: “Uh, Houston, we’ve had a problem.” These events are where this famous phrase originated.

Note: The words that Jack Swigert spoke to Mission Control Center were shortened sometime after the above mentioned incident. For example, in the American film Apollo 13 from 1995, Swigert (played by actor Kevin Bacon) said: “Hey, we’ve got a problem here.” When asked to repeat himself, Jim Lovell (played by Tom Hanks) said: “Houston, we have a problem.

Not rocket science

See Also:

It’s Not Rocket Science

If someone tells you that “it’s not exactly rocket science,” what do they mean? Find out, plus see where this idiom comes from.


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