For release: 11-05-03
Skylab 30th anniversary to be celebrated at 2003 Von Braun Forum
Eight astronauts who lived and worked on America's first space station — Skylab — in the 1970s will be among participants in a forum at the Chan Auditorium at the University of Alabama in Huntsville today at 2 p.m. They will discuss past and present achievements in human space flight.
Photo: Skylab — America's first space station (NASA/MSFC)
Eight astronauts who lived and worked on Skylab, America's first space station, will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the orbiting laboratory on Nov. 10, during the annual Von Braun Forum in Huntsville, Ala.
Astronauts Owen Garriott, Joe Kerwin, Ed Gibson, Paul Weitz, Jerry Carr, Jack Lousma, Al Bean and Bill Pogue, eight of the nine NASA astronauts who lived on Skylab for periods as long as 84 days, will be joined by engineers who made it possible, in panel discussions about past and present achievements in human spaceflight. The event is planned for 2 p.m. at the Chan Auditorium at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. It is free and open to the public.
Skylab, a two-level workshop made from a converted Saturn S-IVB stage, was launched May 14, 1973 atop a Saturn V rocket, the same vehicle that launched the Apollo Moon landing missions. Weighing nearly 100 tons and having the same volume as a small, three-bedroom house, Skylab orbited Earth for more than 171 days. Three different, three-person crews staffed Skylab and performed hundreds of solar and microgravity experiments. The ninth Skylab crew member, astronaut Pete Conrad, died in 1999.
While Skylab is a bright page in NASA history, its successes were not without its problems. About 63 seconds after launch, a meteoroid protection shield ripped and tore off a solar array panel, jamming and preventing the deployment of another. Skylab became subject to serious overheating.
The first crew launch, originally scheduled the day after Skylab's, was delayed 10 days while NASA teams at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. literally worked around the clock to devise fixes to the problem. Based on their efforts, the first Skylab crew of Conrad, Weitz, and Kerwin successfully erected a reflective parasol sunshade and cut a strap to open the remaining solar array. The mission continued until the crew returned to Earth June 22, 1973, clearing the way for the two follow-on missions.
Among its achievements, Skylab proved humans could live and work in space for long periods without artificial gravity. Its experiments showed microgravity was not only beneficial but even necessary to some research. Skylab proved a major stepping stone toward today's International Space Station, a 16-nation orbiting laboratory under construction in space since 1998.
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