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Save Skylab
August 13, 2007 11:03 AM   Subscribe

While enjoying today's International Space Station construction mission, don't forget America's first outpost in space, Skylab. Launched in 1972, the experimental station, cobbled together from Apollo hardware, was abandoned two years later and plunged to Earth in 1979. Today, you can pitch in to save the rotting hulk of the Skylab trainer.
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot (17 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh, man. The current state of the Skylab trainer is tragic. I saw it when I was at Space Camp at the US Space and Rocket Center when I was a kid. It was properly preserved and really made an impact. Why on earth did they move it outside? It looks like they just covered it with a few tarps. It seems that the USSRC really has gone downhill, but at least they're preserving the Saturn V that'd been outside there.
posted by zsazsa at 11:30 AM on August 13, 2007


I remember that I first learned about Skylab from a children's book about space. It must have been published in the brief interval when this thing was actually flying.

Then again, the same book also told me that gravity comes from the spin of the Earth, so I guess it could have been published any time--it's not like they did any research for it.
posted by DU at 11:37 AM on August 13, 2007


Oh brave new world, that has such mouldy plastic in it. That trainer has really gone to pot. It makes me wonder what the real thing would have looked like had they been able to keep it in service all these years.
posted by GuyZero at 11:46 AM on August 13, 2007


Sooooo... upon reading the links, there is this rather clear statement:

"As of December 1, 2006 they started a Skylab preservation effort of there own. Ours is concluded as of today. "

So actually, you can't donate to save the Skylab trainer.
posted by GuyZero at 11:50 AM on August 13, 2007


Isn't Skylab supposed to become sentient and attempt to destroy all humans?

oh, wait...
posted by tadellin at 12:12 PM on August 13, 2007


I'm all for preserving antiquities, but if the other actual flying article Skylab is preserved at the Smithsonian, why worry about a trainer?

That aside, however, great post. I remember watching, with great excitement, news coverage of Skylab's return to earth as an 8-year-old.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 12:16 PM on August 13, 2007


I remember seeing Skylab go over when I was a little kid. It was the first time I'd ever seen lights from something in orbit - and it made quite an impression on me. I was quite a bit more aware when it came back down. I've never really been impressed with Nasa since then.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:16 PM on August 13, 2007


There was a cult classic dramatization of Skylab's re-entry several years back.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 12:34 PM on August 13, 2007


For some reason this reminds me of the old Onion article, Russian Scientists Announce Six-Month Delay In Carving New Space Station.
posted by mosk at 1:35 PM on August 13, 2007


Is this the one that used to be INSIDE the rocket center?

If so, that is terribly sad.

It's been a few years since I've been to the rocket center. That used to be one of my favorite displays. Thinking about spending days and weeks in that tin can made for some disturbing thoughts on the drive home.

I remember, as an 8 year old, being quite worried Skylab was going to hurt a bunch of people coming down.
posted by Ynoxas at 3:00 PM on August 13, 2007


That ice that FEMA was supposed to send for Katrina relief and instead has been sending around the country for two years - could it save the trainer?
posted by Cranberry at 3:06 PM on August 13, 2007


That aside, however, great post. I remember watching, with great excitement, news coverage of Skylab's return to earth as an 8-year-old.

Same here, M.C. Lo-Carb! Especially so, since there was a chance it was gonna land on our heads!

"On July 11, 1979 it crashed into the western edge of Australia and Indian Ocean. The community of Esperance issued a $400 fine to the United States for littering as a result of the numerous pieces of Skylab that lay scattered about their town. One enterprising citizen, Stan Thornton, gathered up some pieces from his roof and took them to San Francisco to claim a first-finder's reward.

When the Russian space station Mir was taking a similar path to earth a few years later, the citizens of Esperance were not eager to the targets of space fallout a second time."
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:11 PM on August 13, 2007


One of my favorite Skylab facts is that a mini-astronaut rebellion occurred.

From Challenges of Space Exploration:
When pilot William Pogue vomited, the astronauts should have informed Mission Control, and they should have freeze-dried the product and brought it back for post-flight analysis. But they did neither. Unbeknown to the crew, their conversation deciding to disobey orders was being recorded, and would later be heard on the ground. As Henry Cooper reports in his book on Skylab, it was the first time astronauts were ever reprimanded in public during a flight. This early incident created a tension between the crew and Mission Control which worsened as time went on, and took the ground nearly half the mission to try to set right.
After several weeks of working 16 hours a day and being annoyed by what they felt was micromanaging of their time by Mission Control, they went on strike for one day.
At the end of their sixth week aboard Skylab, the third crew went on strike. Commander Carr, science pilot Edward Gibson, and Pogue stopped working, and spent the day doing what they wanted to do. As have almost all astronauts before and after them, they took the most pleasure and relaxation from looking out the windows at the Earth, taking a lot of photographs. Gibson monitored the changing activity of the Sun, which had also been a favourite pastime of the crew.
None of the crew ever flew in space again.
posted by jjwiseman at 5:35 PM on August 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


My own memory of the re-entry of Skylab is something of an embarrassment for me. My mother either heard "on the news" or decided for herself that when Skylab hit the earth enough of a thump would be created that it could mimic a small earthquake. Thus she chose to start moving her precious china dishes to what she considered a more seismically safe position within the house. I came home when she was in the middle of this operation. I attempted to advise her of a more rational risk assessment, i.e. that she ran a MUCH greater risk of breaking the dishes by simply moving them than the threat Skylab exhibited.

But she was having none of this "reason" stuff and continued to schlep the china around. Thankfully she broke no dishes and Skylab fell nowhere near Missoula Montana that day...

It's very sad when part of "coming of age" means realizing that at least one of your parents is grossly irrational.
posted by Tube at 6:20 PM on August 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


Extremely clever name, too. It's a lab. And it's up in the sky. Wonder who thought of it?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:33 PM on August 13, 2007


GuyZero, on the very front of saveskylab.org, it says they're still accepting donations as of July 30, 2007: I talked to Mike Kelly of the USSRC today. They are ready to start taking action to save Skylab. They are asking us to help raise funds to build structures... with a PayPal link right there.
posted by zsazsa at 8:01 PM on August 13, 2007


They should use the money to launch it into space and send it plunging back down.
posted by stavrogin at 8:52 PM on August 13, 2007


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