Houston, we have a problem

Aminesh Chavan
Staff Writer

08pd0242The saying “Houston, we have a problem” is very recognizable in almost any space movie that has something go wrong. Why was Texas’s Johnson Space Center picked over all the other NASA’s bases as the command center (for human space flight) even though most (nearly all) launches are from Cape Canaveral in Florida?

First, let’s discuss why Florida is a great launch location. If you recall from middle school geography, Florida is closest to the equator than any other place in the continent of the United States. This is great for many reasons. First, it helps in maintaining a relatively warm climate. Second, the farther you move away from the equator, the more energy would be needed to get to space. So it is more “economical” to launch near the equator. Finally, since all launches travel east to gain momentum, Florida, being on the east coast, provides a safety net if anything were to go wrong; it would be over water rather than land. That is why Texas and California were ruled out.

Getting back to Texas, when President Kennedy (JFK) set the goal of putting a man on the moon, NASA set out to build a central command center that could handle the work needed to accomplish that goal. NASA determined some requirements that they would want the new center to have: mild climate, all weather commercial flight services, a Department of Defense base, a university nearby and 1,000 acres of land. Florida was the first choice but the plans for the center fell through so Houston, Texas, being the runner up, won the bid and the construction on the Johnson space center was started.

On a side note, the saying came about when astronaut Jack Swigert, who was the command module pilot on Apollo 13, saw a warning light that accompanied the bang the crippled the ship and said, “Houston, we’ve had a problem here.”


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