Houston, We've Had a Problem


  • Lewis Goodings Anglia Ruskin University
  • Paul Dickerson University of Roehampton




Apollo 13, factual discourse, epistemic authority, social remembering, discourse analysis


It is 50 years since the Apollo 13 mission failed to reach the surface of the moon. In this article we examine the audio recording of the post-mission press conference from the Apollo 13 spaceflight. We will focus on the "problem" (an explosion on-board the spacecraft) that prevented the astronauts (Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise) from reaching the moon and we will analyse how their retrospective talk organises "what happened" and "what we did" in their recollections of the events surrounding the explosion. In the analysis we identify how these accounts are discursively organised in such a way that the explosion is positioned as an external event that was unavoidable and unexpected. Furthermore, the astronaut's responses to witnessing this unexpected event and their subsequent actions on realising the severity of the event are constructed as being measured, rational and logical.


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Author Biographies

Lewis Goodings, Anglia Ruskin University

Lewis GOODINGS is a senior lecturer in psychology at Anglia Ruskin University. Lewis' research focusses on qualitative social psychology and he studies everyday talk in a variety of different contexts. His main area of research is on the intersections between social media and mental health.

Paul Dickerson, University of Roehampton

Paul DICKERSON is a principal teaching fellow at the University of Roehampton where he teaches social psychology and qualitative research. Paul's research publications have focused on social interaction and discourse. He has also published textbooks on the topics of social psychology and essay writing.




How to Cite

Goodings, L., & Dickerson, P. (2020). Houston, We’ve Had a Problem. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 21(2). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-21.2.3331