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Shuttle-Mir Background - Skylab

Skylab was a manned U.S. space station launched into orbit in May 1973. It had been adapted from the third stage of a Saturn V rocket vehicle. Three successive crews of three astronauts each occupied Skylab. The longest mission, which ended in February 1974, lasted almost three months.

Skylab 1. May 14, 1973. Skylab 1 was launched unmanned by a Saturn V booster. Almost immediately, technical problems developed due to vibrations during lift-off. A critical meteoroid shield that served also as a thermal control ripped away, taking one of the craft's two solar panels with it. A piece of the shield wrapped around the other pane and kept it from deploying. Skylab was maneuvered so its Apollo Telescope Mount (ATM) solar panels faced the Sun to provide as much electricity as possible. Because of the loss of the meteoroid shield, however, this positioning caused workshop temperatures to rise to 126 degrees Fahrenheit. The launch of Skylab 2 was postponed while NASA engineers, in an intensive 10-day period, developed procedures, a new shield, and trained the crew to save the workshop. At the same time, engineers "rolled" Skylab to lower the temperature of the workshop.

Skylab 2. May 25-June 22, 1973. Crew: Charles Conrad, Jr., Paul J. Weitz, Joseph P. Kerwin. Duration: 28 days, 50 minutes. The first Skylab crew rendezvoused with Skylab on the fifth orbit. Substantial repairs were made including deployment of a parasol sunshade that cooled the inside temperatures to 75 degrees F. By June 4, the workshop was in full operation. In orbit the crew conducted solar astronomy and Earth resources experiments, medical studies, and five student experiments. The mission completed 404 orbits and 392 experiment hours, with three EVAs totaling six hours, 20 minutes.

Skylab 3. July 28-September 25, 1973. Crew: Alan L. Bean, Jack R. Lousma, Owen K. Garriott. Duration: 59 days, 11 hours. Skylab 3 continued maintenance of the space station and extensive scientific and medical experiments. The mission completed 858 Earth orbits and 1,081 hours of solar and Earth experiments with three EVAs totaling 13 hours, 43 minutes.

Skylab 4. November 16, 1973 - February 8, 1974. Crew: Gerald P. Carr, William R. Pogue, Edward G. Gibson. Duration: 84 days, 01 hour. The last Skylab mission included observation of the Comet Kohoutek among numerous experiments; completed 1,214 Earth orbits, including four EVAs totaling 22 hours, 13 minutes.

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Curator: Kim Dismukes
Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty