The Grand Rapids Hero Who Was First To Hear ‘Houston, we’ve had a problem.’
If you've seen the Tom Hanks movie Apollo 13, or even if you haven't, you probably know the line "Houston, we've had a problem." Spoken by Astronaut Jim Lovell in real life, it was communicated to Col. Jack Lousma. Lousma, a native of Grand Rapids who grew up in Ann Arbor, was the CAPCOM recipient of the communication from space. CAPCOM is the acronym for Capsule Communicator, a position held by an astronaut.
"Houston, we've had a problem."
It was 52 years ago this week that an oxygen tank on Apollo 13 exploded, placing the three man crew directly into a life and death situation. According to a post in Michigan Heroes on Facebook,
"While many have heard the story or seen the movie, not many know that the person in Houston talking to the crew at the time was our own Col. Jack Lousma (USMC, Ret.). That position at mission control is called CAPCOM (CAPsule COMmunicator), and is a position always held by an astronaut. Many years later Col. Lousma recounted a story of a reporter asking him after the successful splashdown of Apollo 13, 'What would you have done if you couldn't have got them back?' His answer: 'That question never entered my mind. We were so intent on being successful, we never thought about what we were going to do if we couldn't get them back... We didn't let negative thoughts enter our mind.' - Michigan Heroes
But that wasn't the last we heard of Col. Lousma. In 1973, he was the pilot for Skylab 3 and commanded STS-3 in 1982. Lousma logged a total of over 1,619 hours in space.
Running for Senate in Michigan
After his space career ended, he tried his hand a politics, running for Senate in Michigan in 1984, but losing to longtime Senator Carl Levin.
Among the accolades for Lousma are an honorary doctorate of astronautical science from the University of Michigan in 1973, an honorary D.Sc. from Hope College in 1982, an honorary D.Sc. in business administration from Cleary College in 1986, and an honorary doctorate from Sterling College in 1988.
And Lousma has a closed end street (Lousma Drive) named after him in Wyoming (Michigan) which begins west off of Roger B. Chaffee Memorial Blvd just south of 32nd Street SE, in an industrial park area, according to wikipedia.