May 14th, 2018

Skylab Launched 45 Years Ago Today

Skylab was launched 45 years ago today.  Those age 55 and older will remember the Skylab as the first space vehicle designed for long term human occupation. It reentered the earth’s atmosphere six years later.

Skylab followed on the heels of the Apollo program.  From July 1969 to December 1972 Apollo conducted six manned missions to the moon.  A seventh (Apollo 13) never made it to the lunar surface.

After Apollo ended, attention turned to the prospect of living and working in space.  The project became known as Skylab.  It was launched in May 14, 1973.  Skylab was actually constructed from an empty stage of a Saturn V rocket.

The Saturn V was the most powerful rocket ever built.  It was designed by German immigrant Wernher Von Braun.  Braun was a genius and guided NASA’s rocket research in Huntville, Alabama from after World War II into the 1970s.

Skylab was basically a long tube measuring nearly 120 feet in length with roughly three floors and a waste tank in the bottom.  There were three Skylab missions after the original launch.  The original launch was unmanned and then three manned missions followed.  The three man crews accomplished nearly 300 experiments in space.  For more information on Skylab see: http://www.armaghplanet.com/blog/skylab-everything-you-need-to-know.html

So whatever happened to Skylab?  The US has hoped to have the Space Shuttle run between the US and Skylab.  However, before the Shuttle was fully developed, Skylab’s orbit began to decay.  There was no way to boost it back into orbit.

As I neared my senior year in high school scientists realized that Skylab was going to crash land on the earth.  Where was it going to land was the question.

Marketers were quick to seize upon the question.  They began selling shirts that read, “Skylab landing zone”.  Basketball legend Pete Maravich, who was in an eccentric stage before he became a follower of Christ, put up a sign that his house was an invited landing zone.

The final resting place was not on a T-shirt or Pistol Pete’s house, rather it was the Indian Ocean near Perth Australia on July 11, 1979.

Skylab became the forerunner of today’s International Space Station (ISS).  It all began forty five years ago today.

 

For great pictures and further information see: https://www.thisdayinaviation.com/