Houston, we have a problem

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A misquotation of the phrases “Houston, we’ve had a problem here” and “Houston, we’ve had a problem” said by the American astronauts Jim Lovell (born 1928) and Jack Swigert (1931–1982), who were crew members of the Apollo 13 moon flight, to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas, on April 13, 1970, after an oxygen tank triggered an explosion which led to the mission being aborted.[1][2]

The phrase in the form “Houston, we have a problem” was popularized by the film Apollo 13 (1995). The American screenwriter William Broyles Jr. (born 1944) altered the original phrases as he felt that “[t]he past perfect tense wasn’t as dramatic”. However, the phrase has been used earlier, for example, as the title of a 1974 television movie about the Apollo 13 mission.[3]


  • (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /ˈh(j)uːst(ə)n ˌwiː hæv ə ˈpɹɒbləm/
  • (General American) IPA(key): /ˈ(h)justən ˌwi hæv ə ˈpɹɑbləm/
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: Hous‧ton, we have a prob‧lem


Houston, we have a problem

  1. (US, humorous) Used to report that a (major) problem has occurred.
    • 2002, Dan Ramsey, Complete Idiot’s Guide to Solar Power for Your Home (Complete Idiot’s Guide), Indianapolis, Ind.: Alpha Books, →ISBN, page xvii:
      Houston, we have a problem. We're running out of oil! The petroleum that fuels our daily lives is getting harder to find.



  1. ^ “Apollo 13: Day 3, Part 2: ‘Houston, we’ve had a problem’”, in NASA History Division[1], 21 April 2020, archived from the original on 2020-12-12.
  2. ^ James A[rthur] Lovell (1975), “‘Houston, We’ve Had a Problem’”, in Edgar M[aurice] Cortright, editor, Apollo Expeditions to the Moon (NASA SP; 350), Washington, D.C.: Scientific and Technical Information Office, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, →OCLC, page 249: “Jack Swigert saw a warning light that accompanied the bang, and said, ‘Houston, we’ve had a problem here.’ I came on and told the ground that it was a main B bus undervolt. The time was 2108 hours on April 13.”
  3. ^ Michael S. Rosenwald (14 April 2017), “‘Houston, we have a problem’: The amazing history of the iconic Apollo 13 misquote”, in The Washington Post[2], Washington, D.C.: The Washington Post Company, →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 2021-04-08.

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