|THE REAL "FIRST SPACE STATION"
Contributed by Mike Hogan
"For what it's worth, attached is a brief history of the
real "First Space Station", to educate some of the people that
weren't around back then, or maybe have just forgotten what we
might have done if the bean counters didn't get involved. It makes
me kind of sad to think we are just now getting back to where we
were more than 25 years ago."
May 14, 1973
The station was launched into orbit by a Saturn V booster. Almost
immediately, technical problems developed due to vibrations during lift-off.
A critical meteoroid shield ripped off taking one of the craft's two solar
panels with it; a piece of the shield wrapped around the other panel
keeping it from deploying.
Skylab was maneuvered so its Apollo Telescope Mount (ATM) solar
panels faced the Sun to provide as much electricity as possible.
Because of the loss of the meteoroid shield, however, this positioning
caused workshop temperatures to rise to 52 degrees Celsius
(126 degrees F). The launch of Skylab 2 was postponed while NASA
engineers, in an intensive 10-day period, developed procedures
and trained the crew to make the workshop habitable. At the same
time, engineers "rolled" Skylab to lower the temperature of the workshop.
May 25-June 22
Charles Conrad, Jr.
Paul J. Weitz
Joseph P. Kerwin
28 days, 50 minutes
First manned mission. The crew rendezvoued with Skylab on the fifth orbit.
After making substantial repairs, including deployment of a parasol sunshade
which cooled the inside temperatures to 23.8 degrees C (75 degrees F), by
June 4 the workshop was in full operation. In orbit the crew conducted
solar astronomy and Earth resources experiments, medical studies, and
five student experiments; 404 orbits and 392 experiment hours were
completed; three EVAs totalled six hours, 20 minutes.
July 28-September 25, 1973
Alan L. Bean
Jack R. Lousma
Owen K. Garriott
59 days, 11 hours
Continued maintenance of the space station and extensive scientific and
medical experiments. Completed 858 Earth orbits and 1,081 hours of solar
and Earth experiments; three EVAs totalled 13 hours, 43 minutes.
November 16, 1973 - February 08 1974
Gerald P. Carr
William R. Pogue
Edward G. Gibson
84 days, 01 hour
Last of the Skylab missions; included observation of the Comet Kohoutek
among numerous experiments. Completed 1,214 Earth orbits and four EVAs
totalling 22 hours, 13 minutes.
Following the final manned phase of the Skylab mission, ground
controllers performed some engineering tests of certain Skylab
systems--tests that ground personnel were reluctant to do while men
were aboard. Results from these tests helped to determine causes of
failures during the mission and to obtain data on long term
degradation of space systems.
Upon completion of the engineering tests, Skylab was positioned into a
stable attitude and systems were shut down. It was expected that
Skylab would remain in orbit eight to ten years. However, in the fall
of 1977, it was determined that Skylab was no longer in a stable
attitude as a result of greater than predicted solar activity.
On July 11, 1979, Skylab impacted the Earths surface. The debris
dispersion area stretched from the Southeastern Indian Ocean across a
sparsely populated section of Western Australia.
"Before I retired a few years ago, I occasionally heard references to the "dinosaurs of the old days", and how it was time for them to make way for the new age. These comments sometimes came from people that didn't know who Neil Armstrong was, much less Michael Collins or Ed "Buzz" Aldrin. Grissom, Chaffee and White were names they may have heard in a movie but their eyes didn't get misty or their guts get tight when they spoke the names. Those sentiments only came from the "dinosaurs".
With the demise of the MIR, I am reminded of the thoughts I expressed to a few friends at my retirement party.
There was once a program called Skylab. It drew on the accomplishments of the Apollo program and sought to carry the "new frontier" to further heights. It achieved significant results, overcoming several setbacks along the way, in itself a tribute to the dedication of the people involved. Sadly, support for the Space Program in general faded and Skylab was abandoned. Lacking the funding to reboost this first Space Station into a safe orbit, it was left to decay and spread its charred remains across Australia.
Today, you might say Skylab was a dinosaur. I prefer to think of it as a Phoenix, from whose ashes a new era, and interest, in Space Exploration rose in the shape of the Shuttle and Space Station Alpha. In the same way, I feel that the dedicated people of the '60's, 70's and 80's, and even earlier, are not dinosaurs, but a kind of Phoenix that burned brightly for a time and, while burning out, passed their knowledge and dedication to the next generation. I can only hope this new Phoenix will burn as brightly as its predecessors before they too become charred remnants spread across the land."
|Like many an excursion into the past, we are reminded of where we were at a particular time. On May 14th, 1973, the launch date for Skylab 1, I was a visitor to the NASA Tracking Station in Newfoundland. (This is not to be confused with an earlier minitrack station although it was at the same location.) The Newfoundland Station that supported Skylab was the transportable station moved from Grand Bahama. If I recall correctly it was there because of the approximately 50 degree launch azimuth for Skylab I. After Skylab the Station was relocated to Edwards AFB where it was known as the Buckhorn Station. Bill Lins and Stan Valeski are two names that come to mind who were a part of that operation. I'm sure they can provide some interesting historical detail. I see no mention of the Newfounfland activity under tracking stations or Skylab. Did I miss it? Larry Odenthal was the NASA Station Director in Grand Bahama and Newfoundland. If we could find him he could probably provide some interesting history as well.
Ed Cammarota was the Bendix Sr. Manager. I believe Ed is no longer with us.
Anyway, thanks for the memories..."
Newfoundland NASA Site