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It’s back to the ’70s with Skylab 50th anniversary celebration

HUNTSVILLE – The U.S. Space and Rocket Center is hosting a ’70s-themed dinner to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Skylab.

David Hitt, author of “Homesteading Space: The Skylab Story,” will emcee the Sept. 29 celebration which will also feature Skylab astronauts, including Dr. Joseph Kerwin. The event includes dinner and music from the 1970s. Tickets are available here.  

Launched in May 14, 1973, Skylab was America’s first space station and first crewed research laboratory in space. The Soviet Union had orbited its first experimental space station Salyut in 1971. 

“Skylab was a critical step in exploring space because it taught us how to live off this planet,” Dr. Kimberly Robinson, CEO and Executive Director of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, said.  “This program, managed here at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, enabled future stays on the International Space Station, and contributed so much to our everyday life here on earth.”

According to NASA, Skylab evolved out of the Apollo Applications Program of the late 1960s, which sought to repurpose any unused hardware from the Apollo moon landing program. 

“The Skylab complex consisted of four major components: the Orbital Workshop (OWS), the Airlock Module (AM), the Multiple Docking Adapter (MDA), and the Apollo Telescope Mount (ATM). The Apollo Command and Service Module transported crews to and from Skylab and remained attached to the station throughout a crew’s occupancy. The OWS, converted from the upper stage of a Saturn rocket, served as the main working, living and sleeping compartment for the crews, and contained exercise equipment, a galley, and many of the scientific experiments, in particular for the life sciences studies. 

“Two large solar arrays on the OWS provided 12.4 kW of power to the station. The AM enabled astronauts to conduct spacewalks, while the MDA included a prime and backup docking port for the Apollo spacecraft and housed the Earth Resources Experiment Package. The ATM contained telescopes for solar observations and four solar arrays for additional power. Once in orbit, the complex weighed 170,000 pounds, by far the heaviest spacecraft to date.” 

Overcoming numerous challenges, three successive three-person crews would spend 28, 56, and 56 days aboard the station, launching in Apollo capsules atop Saturn 1B rockets. The astronauts conducted 270 experiments before returning to Earth.  

“Skylab was 50 years ago this year,” Hitt wrote on his blog. “It’s history – history we can learn from, history that can inspire.”  

Five years after the last Skylab mission, the craft disintegrated July 11, 1979 as it re-entered the atmosphere over the Indian Ocean and Western Australia.

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