Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
November 5, 2003
NASA Celebrates Skylab Anniversary At Von Braun Forum
Eight NASA astronauts who lived and worked on Skylab, America's first space station, will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the historic laboratory on Nov. 10, during the annual Von Braun Forum in Huntsville, Ala.
Eight of the nine NASA astronauts, who lived on Skylab for periods as long as 84 days, will lead panel discussions. The eight astronauts, Owen Garriott, Joe Kerwin, Ed Gibson, Paul Weitz, Jerry Carr, Jack Lousma, Al Bean and Bill Pogue, will discuss past and present achievements in human spaceflight. Pete Conrad, the ninth Skylab crewman, died in 1999.
The public event is at 3 p.m. EST at the Chan Auditorium at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and admission is free.
Skylab, a two-level workshop was made from a converted Saturn S-IVB stage. It was launched May 14, 1973 atop a Saturn V rocket, the same vehicle that launched the Apollo moon 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. While Skylab remains a bright page in NASA history, its success was not without 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. As a result, Skylab was subject to serious overheating. The first crew launch, originally scheduled the day after Skylab's, was delayed 10 days, while teams at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center worked around the clock to devise solutions to the problem.
Following ground team instructions, the first Skylab crew, 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 on June 22, 1973, clearing the way for the two follow-on missions.
Skylab proved humans could live and work in space for long periods without artificial gravity, and experiments showed microgravity was not only beneficial but also necessary for some research. Skylab was a major stepping-stone toward developing the International Space Station, a 16-nation orbiting laboratory under construction in space since 1998.
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