Skylab, America's first space station, provided a detailed study of our planet from the incomparable vantage of orbit. Skylab served as the greatest solar observatory of its time, a microgravity lab, a medical lab, an Earth-observing facility, and, most importantly, a home away from home for its residents.
May 14, 1973
July 11, 1979
Part I – The History of Skylab
From its launch on May 14, 1973, until the return of its third and final crew on Feb. 8, 1974, the Skylab program proved that humans can live and work in outer space for extended periods of time.
On February 8, 1974, Skylab’s final manned mission (Skylab 4) left behind America’s first space station after a stay of 84 days.
Part II – Life on Skylab
One of Skylab’s most important functions was to study the feasibility of long-duration space missions. As a result, the ongoing activity of astronauts just going about their daily lives in orbit was one of the greatest of all the scientific experiments aboard the station. Though they were free-falling in Earth orbit, traveling at 16,000 miles per hour, the Skylab crew members said that everyday life on the station was actually pretty normal.
SL4-150-5080 (16 Nov. 1973-8 Feb. 1974) — Two of the three Skylab 4 (third manning) astronauts exhibit the “magic” that can be accomplished in the weightlessness of space. Astronaut Gerald D. Carr, mission commander, uses his index finger to suspend astronaut William R. Pogue, pilot, in the Orbital Workshop (OWS). The two “wizards” completed almost three months aboard the Earth-orbiting Skylab space station, plenty of time to grow these full beards. The photograph was taken with a 35mm camera by astronaut Edward G. Gibson, science pilot.
Part III – The Legacy of Skylab
For today’s students, Skylab is a part of history that took place long before they were born. But it is an important part of space exploration; it laid substantial 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 Garriott.
This onboard photograph depicts Astronaut Owen Garriott atop the Apollo Telescope Mount, removing a film magazine (white box) from one of Skylab’s solar telescopes during an Extravehicular Activity (EVA) in the second marned Skylab mission (Skylab-3). A long boom transported it back into the waiting hands of another crew member at the airlock door below. During the operation, Garriott, film, boom, and Skylab were 435 kilometers high and speeding around the Earth at 29,000 kilometers per/hour. Because they moved together with no wind resistance, there was little sense of motion.
The Skylab Crewed Missions
The first crew to the Skylab space station, launched on May 25, 1973, had an added responsibility for their mission: save Skylab!
The second crew to inhabit Skylab, launched on July 28, 1973, spent a then record-breaking 59.5 days in space. The mission accomplished 150% of their mission goals while completing 858 revolutions of the Earth.
The third and final crew to the Skylab space station completed a record-breaking 84 days in space from November 16, 1973 to February 8, 1974 while continuing the program's scientific objectives of making Earth resources, solar astronomy, and medical experiment observations.
50 Years Ago: The Launch of Skylab, America’s First Space Station
Skylab, America’s first space station and the first crewed research laboratory in space, lifted off on May 14, 1973, on…