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51 years of Skylab, NASA’s first space station

This May 14 marks 51 years since the unmanned launch, in 1973, of the Skylab space laboratory, NASA’s first space station.

With a wingspan of 35 meters and a weight of 75 tons, a Saturn V rocket from the Apollo program was necessary to put it into orbit in 1973.

The station suffered severe damage during launch, losing its solar shield, part of the micrometeorite shield, and one of its main solar panels. The detached parts of the micrometeorite shield prevented the deployment of the remaining solar panel, causing a large energy deficit and abnormal overheating.

Still, it orbited Earth from 1973 to 1979 and was visited by astronauts three times during its first two years of service.

The first crew, an Apollo spacecraft launched on May 25, 1973, performed extensive repair work on a spacewalk and spent 28 days on the station. The following missions began on 28 July 1973 and 16 November 1973 and lasted 59 and 84 days respectively, with a total occupation of 171 days. The last Skylab crew returned to Earth on February 8, 1974.

Astronauts working at Skylab conducted observations of the Earth, Sun and stars in the ultraviolet and X-ray range, as well as experiments in space physics, microgravity, and biomedical and biological studies.

The laboratory was abandoned until five years later, its orbit began to decay due to the Earth’s attraction and its re-entry into the atmosphere became inevitable.

There was speculation about where in the southern hemisphere his remains would fall. Finally, on July 11, 1979, it disintegrated due to friction with the atmosphere and fragments fell on Australian territory. This country fined NASA $400 for littering on public land, Wikipedia reports.

Its replica can be visited at the Aerospace Museum in Washington D.C.

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