Project Skylab Mission Summary 1973
|Conrad, Weitz, Kerwin
|Bean, Garriott, Lousma
|Carr, Gibson, Pogue
Skylab, at 77,000 kg was, in 1973, the heaviest object placed in orbit and was launched from the last remaining Saturn V launch vehicle left over from Project Apollo. By comparison the Soviet Salyuts were around 18,500 - 19,000 kg, later Mir was 124,300 and ISS 287,000 kg
One minute into the launch the thermal shield tore loose, taking with it one of the solar wings. A second wing, jammed by debris, failed to deploy in orbit. This resulted in the space station drifting without power and thermal protection.
Launched from a Saturn 1B launch vehicle, the three crews used left over Apollo craft to ferry them to the space station.
Whilst in orbit these crews conducted experiments on human adaptability to micro-gravity, solar observations, and detailed Earth resources experiments. These were performed with two goals in mind; Firstly to prove that humans could live and work in space for extended periods of time and secondly to expand our knowledge of solar astronomy.
NASA administration had originally numbered the skylab flights from SL-1 to SL-4 to include the unmanned Skylab launch, but confusion around another number system for the Skylab Manned flights SLM-1 through SLM-3 resulted in the emblems and promotional and some materials using the SLM number system. This is why there are some early medals numbered differently to others.
|SKYLAB 1 The first crew's mission was to modified to be that of repairing the crippled space station making it inhabitable. Their launch was scheduled for the 15th May but was delayed so that repair methods could be developed and tested. The crew erected a heat shield and deployed the remaining solar wing. After travelling 14 million miles in 28 days, the crew returned to Earth having completed 46 of their planned 55 experiments and saved the space station.
|SKYLAB 2 This mission exceeded the expectations set by the mission goals. Garriott was one of the original scientist astronauts selected in 1965 for the Apollo program along with Schmitt, Kerwin and Gibson (Apollo 17 and Skylab 1 and 3 respectively). Experiments included observing how spiders adapt to spinning webs in zero gravity. The Crew of Skylab 2 travelled some 24.4 million miles in Earth orbit.
|SKYLAB 3 Fractures were found on the 1964 vintage Saturn 1B rockets fins resulting in launch delays, these were replaced and the third Skylab crew were launched into the longest space mission to date. At the end of the mission the crew had travelled some 34.5 million miles in Earth orbits.
Costing $2,460 million Skylab recorded 2,249 days in space (171 occupied) and achieved some 270 experiments. Skylab was abandoned after Skylab 3 due to a lack of launch vehicles and was finally deorbited on 11-July-1979. Skylab reentered the Earth's atmosphere and broke apart, spreading debris over the Indian Ocean and Western Australia.