The Legacy of Skylab
For many of today's students, Skylab is a part of history that took place long before they were born. However, it is an important part of space exploration, having the groundwork for future space ventures. Its potential is just now being realized with the ISS. "I think most people would recognize Skylab as the world's first space station, or at least the U.S.'s first space station," said sstronaut Owen Garriott, a member of the second crew to inhabit the station.
Mission Commander Gerald Carr and pilot William Pogue demonstrate weight training in zero-gravity.
Much of the research and technology that makes the ISS possible was just theory prior to launch of Skylab. "I think the greatest achievement is that we pretty much proved that the human body can stay weightless for a very long time," Carr said. "This was our first opportunity to go up and settle in." He said that the Skylab crews also helped develop countermeasures to help astronauts better endure long-duration flights. "I don't see any reason we couldn't go to Mars without artificial gravity," he said.
In 2003, when asked about the modern successor to the Skylab program, Garriott said that he believes the ISS could have a great future. "It's got great potential, but not with only two people on board. We're still waiting expectantly for the potential to be realized." A decade later, the ISS routinely hosts six-person crews and after years of six-month tours of duty, plans are in place for astronauts to serve yearlong tours of duty beginning 2015.
Carr said that he and fellow third-crew astronaut Pogue were actually involved in the development for 13 years of what became ISS, and were able to share their experiences during the design planning. "It looks to me like it's a good system," he said.
NASA and its international partners continue to work aboard the ISS, assuring humanity's future in space and owing a debt of gratitude to another space station, which orbited the Earth 30 years ago--Skylab.