May 14, 1973
The Skylab space station, which orbited Earth from 1973 to 1979, was launched into space May 14 on an unmanned, modified Saturn V rocket. The science and engineering laboratory was designed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. There were three manned expeditions to the station between its launch and 1974. The space station drew worldwide attention when it fell back to Earth in July 1979. Engineers worked to bring down the station in the southern Indian Ocean, away from populated areas. However, part of the station fell in western Australia. After Skylab, NASA turned its attention to the development of the Space Shuttle.
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The first full engine assembly static firing is seen at Marshall Space Flight Center’s static test tower in Huntsville, Madison County, in May 1960. (From Encyclopedia of Alabama, Library of Congress)
The Marshall Space Flight Center — named for George C. Marshall, the U.S. Army’s World War II chief of staff and the creator of the Marshall Plan — is the heart of the U.S. space program. Located in Huntsville, Madison County, the center, along with Redstone Arsenal, has transformed the area into a high-density job center for engineers and physicists. (From Encyclopedia of Alabama, courtesy of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration)
Apollo 4, the first Saturn V AS-501 launch vehicle, launched on Nov. 9, 1967, from Kennedy Space Center. This unmanned flight was a test flight for the Saturn V launch vehicle. (From Encyclopedia of Alabama, courtesy of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center)
Artist’s rendering of the Skylab Space Station in 1973. (NASA/MSFC)
Skylab 4 commander Gerald Carr jokingly demonstrates weight training in zero gravity as he balances fellow astronaut William Pogue, the mission’s pilot, upside down on his finger. Skylab was America’s first space station and orbital science and engineering laboratory. The station was launched into Earth orbit by a Saturn V rocket on May 14, 1973, as a followup to the Apollo program. Three crews visited the station, with their missions lasting 28, 59 and 84 days, respectively. (NASA)
Orbiter Challenger’s STS-7 mission in the spring of 1983 was NASA’s first to include an American woman in the flight crew, Sally Ride. (From Encyclopedia of Alabama, courtesy of the the National Aeronautics and Space Administration)
Astronaut Owen Garriott performs a spacewalk at the Apollo Telescope Mount (ATM) of the Skylab space station cluster in Earth orbit, photographed with a hand-held 70mm Hasselblad camera. Garriott had just deployed the Skylab Particle Collection S149 Experiment. The experiment was mounted on one of the ATM solar panels. The purpose of the S149 experiment was to collect material from interplanetary dust particles on prepared surfaces suitable for studying their impact phenomena. Earlier during the spacewalk, Garriott assisted astronaut Jack Lousma, Skylab 3 pilot, in deploying the twin pole solar shield. (NASA)
Before departing for Earth on June 22, 1973, the first Skylab crew took this image of the Skylab space station. The crew made a careful visual and photographic inspection of the orbiting laboratory that showed the golden-colored parasol sunshade deployed by the crew to protect the workshop from solar heating. Skylab’s original sunshield and one of its solar arrays were damaged during launch, and the crew conducted the first repair in space to deploy the parasol sunshade and remove the solar array. They worked out many of the repair procedures in an underwater simulator at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. Skylab remained in orbit unmanned until the second crew arrived on July 28, 1973. It operated at reduced power with many of its systems either inoperative or operating at reduced capacity until the next crew arrived. (NASA/MSFC)
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