Houston, We've Had a Problem

Lewis Goodings, Paul Dickerson


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.


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

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17169/fqs-21.2.3331

Copyright (c) 2020 Lewis Goodings, Paul Dickerson

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