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June 20, 2009

Houston, we have a problem..

Houston, we have a problem!!! - A phrase now commonly used to describe “being faced with a difficult situation”.

For several years as a student I tried to understand the origin of this phrase, but in vain. I knew there was some space connection but why not, Cape Canaveral , FL - Kennedy Space Center or Cleveland , OH - Glenn Research Center , are located, what was special about Houston ?

Though I got my question answered a few years ago - the MISSION CONTROL for all NASA space flights is located in Houston at the Johnson Space Center .

It was still quite a thrilling experience when as a part of the guided tour at the Johnson Space Center in Houston I got to view the actual Mission Control Center for all the Apollo missions (14 of them) and to see the console where that call was received from the Apollo 13 mission.

Apollo 13 mission ‘story’ now part of the space exploration folklore was to be the third mission to Land on the moon after the success of Apollo 11 (first mission to land on Moon) and Apollo 12. Mechanical failure crippled the spacecraft during flight and the moon landing was aborted. James A Lovell Jr. Commander – Apollo 13 called up the Mission control in Houston to inform them about ‘the problem’. The crew returned back to the Earth after orbiting the moon but without making the planned landing.

Besides is the Astronaut Memorial Grove at the Johnson Space Center , where a tree is planted for each astronaut that is lost on or while preparing for a mission.
Though not a big devotee of George Bush’s oratory, I really felt something, listening to the memorial speech delivered by him right here at the Grove after the Columbia space shuttle disaster in 2003.

For a nascent astronomer in me the visit to the JSC was another reminder there is so much more to life than 'mere living'. So much to explore, so much to know.

More so in the troubling times we live in, seeing such senseless acts of barbarism perpetuated in the name of God.

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