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America's First Space Station

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Lyndon Baines Johnson, 36th President of the United States.Image at right: Lyndon Baines Johnson, 36th President of the United States. Credit: NASA + View Image

A full house was on hand to witness the dedication ceremonies held at JSC Aug. 27, 1973, commemorating the renaming of the center.

In his opening remarks at the ceremonies, then-JSC Director Kraft said, "It's been just a few months since the legislation was enacted, designating this center in honor of our late president. The new name is so appropriate, however, that it seems now that we've always been known as the Johnson Space Center."

The former MSC was renamed in honor of the late president on Feb. 17, 1973. Dedication ceremonies on Aug. 27 were scheduled to coincide with what would have been the late president's 65th birthday. Johnson died on Jan. 22, 1973.

As these events took place on the ground, the crew of Skylab 3 was making one of what would finally be 858 Earth orbits.

The Skylab Orbital Workshop was launched with no crew on May 14, 1973. Subsequent crewed missions were launched later that year on May 25, July 28 and Nov. 16. Mission objectives were to show that space station operations were medically feasible, define design requirements and demonstrate science performance during long-duration flights.

A bust of the late chief executive was unveiled at ceremonies held on August 27, 1973, in Building 1 dedicating the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center
Image above: A bust of the late chief executive was unveiled at ceremonies held on August 27, 1973, in Building 1 dedicating the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. Mrs. Claudia (Lady Bird) Johnson, the president's widow, presided at the unveiling. On the stage, from left, are: Lynda Bird Johnson Robb and her husband, Charles Robb; the former First Lady; James E. Webb, former NASA administrator; Luci Baines Johnson Nugent and her husband, Pat Nugent, and their 6-year-old son, Lyn Nugent. Credit: NASA + View Image

The launch of the workshop was marred by the loss of its thermal/micrometeoroid shield during ascent. One of the main solar panels was also lost and the other pinned down. It reached orbit with inadequate electrical power and dangerously high temperatures inside. These problems were overcome by the work of the engineering teams at JSC, Marshall Space Flight Center and their contractors.

The first crew was launched 10 days later than planned, but with a full set of equipment with which to erect a substitute for the heat shield and to free up the unextended solar panel. Their success showed the value of spacewalks for repair of orbiting spacecraft.

An interior view of the Skylab Orbital Workshop.Image left: An interior view of the Skylab Orbital Workshop (OWS) trainer located in Building 5, Mission Simulation and Training Facility, at the Johnson Space Center. This is the OWS's forward compartment. This compartment has the water supply, some experiments, locker stowage, etc. The figure represents a Skylab crewman working in zero-gravity. The OWS's crew compartment is on the other side of the floor of this compartment. Credit: NASA + View Image

Skylab 2 crewmembers were Charles Conrad Jr., Paul Weitz and Joseph Kerwin. During their 28-day mission, the crew conducted solar astronomy and Earth resources experiments, medical studies and student experiments. The crew returned to Earth on June 22.

"Skylab was a prototype," said Kerwin. "It was intended to pave the way for a permanent space station. Its designers and operators will take special pride in the future success of the International Space Station."

Alan Bean, Jack Lousma and Owen Garriott flew aboard Skylab 3. The crew conducted extensive scientific and medical experiments during the 59-day mission, returning to Earth on Sept. 25.

The last Skylab mission, Skylab 4, was also the longest-84 days. Gerald Carr, William Pogue and Edward Gibson conducted numerous experiments, including an observation of the comet Kohoutek, before returning to Earth on Feb. 8, 1974.

"I think probably the most important contribution of the Skylab flight was the medical stuff," said Carr. "We proved, I think, just absolutely positively that the human being can live in weightless environment for an extended period of time, and it's, of course, subsequently been proved that you can stay up at least a year or a year and a half. But medically, we gathered the data that I think gave the Russians and other people the understanding and the courage to say, 'Okay, we can stay up for longer periods of time.'"

The Skylab Program demonstrated that humans could live and work in space for extended periods of time, and it expanded humanity's knowledge of solar astronomy well beyond Earth-based observations.

Page 1: JSC Celebrates 40 Years of Human Space Flight
Page 2: JSC Origins
Page 3: JSC Origins
Page 4: JSC Origins
Page 5: Engineering the Future
Page 6: Home of the Nation's Astronaut Corps
Page 7: America's Nerve Center for Mission Operations
Page 8: America's Nerve Center for Mission Operations
Page 9: America's Nerve Center for Mission Operations
Page 10: The Triumph of Apollo
Page 11: The Triumph of Apollo
Page 12: The Triumph of Apollo
Page 13: America's First Space Station
Page 14: Expanding the Center's Role
Page 15: The Last Apollo
Page 16: Space Shuttle
Page 17: Space Shuttle
Page 18: International Space Station
Page 19: International Space Station
Page 20: The Next 40 Years