The Future

Despite the extraordinary effort, sizeable investment, and success of the atm solar observatory, the question remains: For future solar observatories in Earth orbit, should not the observers and instrument operators remain on the ground? After all, several unmanned solar observatories have flown since the atm and made exceptional scientific contributions. Gibson believes the answer depends on the nature of the flight opportunity, the seriousness with which a manned solar observatory mission is approached, and sever­al other factors.

Certainly electronic data collection capabilities and air-ground teleme­try rates have seen explosive growth in the past few decades. Also, except for repair and instrument upgrades, such as utilized on the Hubble Space

Telescope, the expense, extra complexity, use of less-than-fulltime and best – qualified solar physicists as observers, and other restrictions of manned mis­sions argue in favor of the observer remaining on the ground. However, if a manned mission will be in orbit and solar observations can be accommo­dated, the lessons of atm are applicable. The International Space Station might present this type of opportunity — if it can be continuously manned by six to eight crewpersons in total with at least three of them full-time, best-qualified solar physicists who are devoted 99 percent to observations. This situation will not likely become a reality unless cheap, frequent, and dependable transportation to and from iss becomes a reality.

The extrapolation of the lessons of atm suggests the inclusion of:

A routine observations program with a prioritized shopping list of targets of opportunity and the freedom to modify operations as judged best by the operator.

A dedicated observatory with round-the-clock operations and stable solar pointing on the day side of the orbit.

Full-time dedicated observers who are best qualified to operate the observatory whether in flight or on the ground.

Dedicated continuous communication loops with ground scientists for two-way, free exchange of data and commands.

Stability, instrument resolution, and display resolution that match­es the best available capability (currently approaching 0.1 arc second).

Instruments that synergistically cover the visible down to the x-ray range of wavelengths.

At least one instrument that observes the sun’s magnetic field, which drives all solar phenomena in and above its surface.

At least one instrument that observes the Doppler shift of several wavelengths to detect line-of-sight velocities at various heights in the solar atmosphere.

Onboard quick-look capability for most data sent to the ground.

“Unfortunately, considering our current manned spaceflight programs and proficiency, it is not likely that the opportunities and capabilities for a manned solar observatory are likely to materialize in the near future,” Gib­son said. “Thus, the atm mode of operation should be viewed as a rare mile­stone that will not be soon duplicated or surpassed.

“However, two general conclusions can be drawn from the atm experi­ence. First, mental challenges of the type offered by the atm operations are essential on long-duration flights if for no other reason than for intelligent and motivated crewmembers to retain their mental sharpness and positive outlook. Second, there is no good reason that Nobel Prize-quality science, utilizing the space environment, cannot be accomplished in an orbiting lab­oratory just as we realize in our best laboratories here on Earth.”

Garriott would prefer a more modest (and perhaps realistic) goal for the scientifically trained crewmember. From his perspective, and thinking in terms of the next fifty years or so, spaceflight is still expected to be a mar­velous, but seldom encountered, personal opportunity. It seems more like­ly to him that scientifically trained people will be most valued as general­ists and not specialists in one (or even two) disciplines. They will be needed as observers working in close cooperation with the best researchers around the world, helping them in conducting their specialized activity. This is not unlike the roles of the Skylab science pilots but extended as hardware capa­bilities and knowledge expands. While Nobel-competent astronauts are not to be excluded, he believes their “Ah-ha” insights leading to new scientific discoveries and even a Nobel nomination are more likely to arrive in quiet contemplation near their home office or in team meetings with their fellow specialists in interdisciplinary discussions on the ground.

Sprinting a Marathon

You lost a crewman? How could you lose a crewman inside a spacecraft?

Skylab III Mission Announcement

The third manned Skylab mission is scheduled for launch November io
at 11:40 a. m. EST for a mission duration of 60 days or more,

William Schneider, Skylab Program Director, announced.

The mission will be planned as a 60-day open-ended mission
with consumables aboard to provide for as many as 85 days.

Mission extensions would be considered on the 56th, 63rd, 70th and 77th days of the
flight based on the medical well being of the crew,
consumables and work load. The extension of the mission to
85 days would substantially increase the scientific return.

NASA—Press Release, 26 October 19/3

Skylab ill was to break new ground in mission duration and accomplish­ments. And it would do it with an all-rookie crew. When they launched, the three crewmembers did not have a single day of spaceflight experience amongst them. But when they returned, each would have spent more con­tinuous time in space than any other human being.

For the mission’s commander, Jerry Carr, and its pilot, Bill Pogue, the Skylab assignment started off as practically a consolation prize. “I was ten­tatively scheduled to fly on Apollo 19,” Carr recalled. “Our crew was to be Fred Haise, the commander; Bill Pogue, the Command Module pilot; and

me, the Lunar Module pilot. We got started on that assignment and began our training program. Then if my memory serves me correctly, it was around 1970, early 1970 or so, when it was decided that Apollos 18, 19, and 20 would be canceled. So that was a bad day at Black Rock for the three of us. We had lost our opportunity to go to the moon.

“We moped around for quite a few weeks,” he said. “Then Tom Stafford called me into his office and informed me that I was to be the command­er of the third Skylab mission and asked, ‘Do you think you can work with Bill Pogue and Ed Gibson?’ And I said, ‘Of course I can.’ At that time they took us off our roles as the backup crew for Apollo 16 and put another crew in there, and we began focusing on the Skylab mission.

“I was delighted to get a seat, and I was absolutely floored that they would select me to be a commander because there hadn’t been a rookie command­er at NASA since, what was it? I guess it was probably Armstrong on Gemi­ni 8. And so I was really flabbergasted to be selected and very happy to do it. What delighted me the most was that I was going to be working with Al Bean, Pete Conrad, and people like that again, which was really a won­derful thing.”

Ed Gibson recalled: “When assigned to the mission, I knew I was in fast company. Bill Pogue initially appeared to be just an average mild-mannered mathematician, who he had been; but he was also once grounded for flying too low behind enemy lines, was an Air Force test pilot, and flew with the Thunderbirds. He is a sharp, aggressive guy. Jerry Carr had a good educa­tion in aeronautics and was a Marine aviator, which pretty much said it all. The all-rookie crew aspect didn’t faze me. I was just happy to get a seat, and flying with guys I really respected. In retrospect, I lucked out. I got to do great science, be fully immersed in all aspects of astronaut activities, and fly high-performance aircraft. It just couldn’t get any better than that!”

While the three rookie astronauts were excited to be getting their chance to fly, they had little idea that before Skylab ill even launched, it already had two major strikes against it—the past and the future. The strike in the future was the next great thing looming over the horizon—the Space Shut­tle program. Early development of the Shuttle was already underway by the time of Skylab, and the orbiter contract had been signed the month before the sl-i launch with a critical design review scheduled for 1975. However, the program still faced opposition in Congress. A major part of the system was a one-shot pilot-controlled landing from orbit with no go-around capability. There were those who felt that landing would be too large a challenge, par­ticularly if the pilot were suffering from space sickness. The Skylab ill crew had been made aware of how important it was that they not give the orbit – er’s enemies ammunition against the program in that respect.

The past affected them in the form of the two Skylab missions that flew before them. Both Skylab I and II had been behind their timeline early in flight. In both cases there were obvious factors that contributed to these slow starts. The Skylab I crew had to deal with the high temperatures and power shortages on a crippled spacecraft. The Skylab II crew was slowed by motion sickness. Those obvious factors, though, obscured the fact that the major cause was simply that people had to get considerable on-the-job training to efficiently perform tasks in weightlessness—especially when large habitable volumes are involved. With repetition the second crew in particular became extremely efficient and was accomplishing more than their scheduled sci­ence work by the end of their mission. While the actual factors involved in the slow starts of the first two crews would become a major issue once the third crew was in orbit, the efficiency the second crew developed over the course of the mission had an impact on the third crew while Carr and his colleagues were still on the ground.

Upon learning of the 150 percent return of the Bean crew, scientists and mission planners saw an opportunity. Clearly, they had not sent enough work for the second crew to do—and they began making sure the third crew was going to have plenty of work to accomplish. “We got to Skylab ill, which was going to be the last mission in the program,” flight director Neil Hutchinson recalled in a NASA oral history interview. “The train was leav­ing the station, and all kinds of experiments and experimenters were run­ning for a seat.”

In addition NASA decided to use the third crew’s flight to capitalize on another opportunity. In late December 1973 and early January 1974 the Com­et Kohoutek would be passing through the inner solar system. Tasking the third crew with observing Kohoutek from Skylab would let the agen­cy show off the potential of orbital astronomy by performing an unprece­dented feat—no comet had been observed from space before. “Some other training we got at the last minute included that on Comet Kohoutek,” Pogue recalled. “Early in the year it was discovered at the Hamburg Observatory in West Germany that this comet was headed toward the sun and was going to reach its perihelion about Christmas Day of 1973. There was a lot of talk about the period of the comet being about two thousand years, which led to speculation that it was actually the Christmas comet, the one cited in Bib­lical stories of the new star. At any rate, we did some studying and training for that experiment as well.”

Press releases from the time illustrate the situation that confronted the third crew.

nasa-jsc Release No.: 73-107

nasa today announced tentative plans to observe the Comet Kohoutek during the Skylab iii mission which is planned for launch on or about November у from the Kennedy Space Center. The November date is the original planned launch date for Skylab iii. The Comet Kohoutek was identified earlier this year and will be clearly visible from Earth. It is expected to be the brightest object in the night sky except for the Moon in late December and early January. Skylab’s Apollo Telescope Mount instruments, designed to obtain data on the Sun, will observe Kohoutek during its nearest proximity to the Sun late in December.


The first two major priorities of Skylab were space medicine and solar phys­ics. The third was habitability. How was a space station to be designed so that humans could live and work in it effectively?

Engineers had been designing spacecraft for human operability since the Mercury program, but they hadn’t yet made a methodical study of the sub­ject. Skylab was their opportunity because of its generous weight and vol­ume available and its long missions. The opportunity was recognized and taken.

Two experiments were submitted and approved. The first was M487, hab­itability/ crew quarters, the purpose of which was “to measure, evaluate and report habitability features of the crew quarters and work areas of Skylab in engineering terms useful to the design of future manned spacecraft.” Its lit­tle brother was M516, crew activities/maintenance study, designed “to eval­uate Skylab man-machine relationships by gathering data concerning the

crew’s capability to perform work in the zero-g environment on long dura­* * 3?

tion missions.

Plans for gathering data were made, prominently including crew voice reports and questionnaires, film and video, and measurements of how long tasks took to accomplish. Tools were provided to measure light, sound, air movement, temperatures, and forces. Procedures were tested during the smeat simulation and improved. The engineering approach suited the crews, who recognized the importance of the effort and were glad to furnish their evaluations and opinions. The experiment was continued into design. Many different types of restraints, handholds, equipment tethers, and even door openings were provided, so that the crews could show and tell which worked and which didn’t.

It’s been said by some observers that the astronauts were constantly com­plaining about Skylab systems and accommodations. Actually, they were doing their jobs. They thought it more important to describe inefficiencies and suggest solutions than to praise successes, although there was plenty of the latter, especially postflight. And the human-factors engineers behind the experiments, ably led by Bob Bond, knew how quickly memories fade and wanted the evaluations during the missions, not after. So there was a lot of air-to-ground communication on how things worked and how to make them work better.

The results, gathered over the ensuing two years into “Skylab Experience Bulletins,” filled seventeen volumes.

Two very important, unanticipated observations were made about the crews’ bodies: first, they became taller by one to two inches; second, they adopt­ed a characteristic “zero-G posture,” flexed at knees, hips, and neck. These two facts greatly affected the way the people fit into space suits and at work­stations of all sorts and led to some important recommendations for future spacecraft. One was “No Chairs!” The body doesn’t want to flex into a chair; it’s uncomfortable and unnecessary. (On the space shuttle, chairs are used for launch and entry and stowed in orbit.) Don’t make an individual crouch at a workstation by putting key instruments below his or her eye level; it’s not feasible to slump. Without gravity to help, bending over to tie your shoes is harder. And size the space suits and clothing with some extra length. Future engineers would look with interest and amusement at the photo of the fifth percentile girl beside the ninety-fifth percentile guy, and spend some extra time designing one workstation that will fit either.

If chairs are no good, how can you restrain a person to do a task? Foot restraints are the answer, and the best ones give a firm purchase that allows both hands to be occupied with the task. More casual restraints were ok for one-handed tasks.

There was quite a bit of debate before flight about whether people would feel more comfortable in a work space that looked like an Earthly room with floors and ceilings and all the signs oriented the same way, or whether in zero-G they could operate nicely on walls and ceilings, allowing space to be more effectively utilized. The answer to both questions was “yes.” The report says: “The Skylab crewmen were able to operate equipment easily from any orientation. They quickly established their own coordinate sys­tem in which the location of their feet signified ‘down.’” But the one-grav­ity architecture of the ows crew compartment was preferred to the put-it – anywhere radial arrangement in the mda. The latter was a bit disorienting when you entered it; it was ok once you’d reached your workstation. With­in a workstation everything had to be oriented to the same “up.”

Improvements were suggested in the overall layout of Skylab too. “Don’t ever put the airlock in the middle again,” was a good example. Having the airlock right on the main pathway between the systems center in the mda and the work and living center in the workshop meant that nothing could be stowed in the airlock lest it impede traffic. It also meant that if the air­lock hatch wouldn’t close after a spacewalk, the workshop became unin­habitable and the mission was over.

This work, combined with systems evaluation, resulted in a very thor­ough set of design criteria for future spacecraft, especially permanent space stations. It had some impact on Shuttle design, although Shuttle was already well into its design process when the Skylab results were promulgated in 1975. It had considerable impact on the European Spacelab module in whose development several Skylab astronauts participated. And it significantly assisted the Russians in the design of Mir, although no Americans were invited to take part directly in that space station’s initial design. Later, of course, NASA astronauts would live and work with their Russian counter­parts aboard Mir.

In the eighties the Skylab human-factors lessons and several other sources

were combined into one massive habitability design book, NASA Standard 3000. It was used in the design of Space Station Freedom and its successor, iss. What other lessons from Skylab were not learned by the designers of iss is material for another book.

Aircraft-borne Lasers to

Profile Earth and Sea during Final Skylab Flight—

As Skylab’s third crew collects data on the Earth’s resources from 270 miles out in space, two aircraft from the Johnson Space Center (jsc) will skim near the surface using laser instruments to provide an exact profile ofthe land and water at more than a dozen sites. During the coming months, nasa aircraft will use laserprofilometers over portions of the North Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexi­co, the Puerto Rican Trench, and the Great Salt Lake to support Skylab remote­sensing passes over the same areas.

Skylab Gypsy Moth Research Project—

One thousand gypsy moth eggs in two special vials will be launched aboard the third and final Skylab mission on November 10. The first moths in space are part ofa research project sponsored by the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricul­tural Research (aphis) in cooperation with nasa. Agriculture scientists are try­ing to find out ifthe state ofweightlessness might be the key to altering the gypsy moth’s life cycle. If weightlessness does prove to be the factor, the key point may be found in rearing insects by the missions and thus controlling a whole class of insect pests with similar life cycles.

Third Skylab Crew to Expand Knowledge
of Earth’s Resources—

Astronauts Gerald Carr, Edward Gibson and William Pogue will be well equipped to survey the Earth during a final Skylab mission that could last nearly three months. Their training included 40 hours of special lectures on Earth observa­tions and they’re taking along a detailed handbook for viewing Earth from space and the largest store of film and computer tapes ever supplied for a Skylab mis­sion. Meanwhile, the 20,000 Earth photographs and 24 miles of computer tape obtained during the two previous Skylab flights will be undergoing extensive analysis by iff Principal Investigators and their staffs in the United States and 18 foreign countries. Before the first ereppass of the final Skylab mission can be undertaken, Science Pilot Ed Gibson, assisted by his fellow crewmembers, will attempt to repair the antenna drive system for the microwave radiometer-scat- terometer-altimeter (sipj). Gibson will work on the Sip3 instrument during the crew’s first walk outside the space station, scheduled for the week following launch. Pilot Bill Pogue will join him outside.

Student Experiments

“The Skylab Student Program came into being because some of us involved in the space program were concerned over the decline in interest of our youth in science and engineering fields in ‘post-Apollo’ days, the first moon land­ings in 1969 having recently been made,” said Jack Waite, who served as the student experiment project coordinator while at Marshall Space Flight Cen­ter. “A number of NASA headquarters and field center personnel (msfc and msc, now jsc) discussed ways to stimulate the American youth interest in these fields. It became apparent that they could, even should, be an integral part of the Skylab Experiment Program. At headquarters Joe Lundholm was a key player, along with the program directors Bill Schneider and John Disher, Reg Machell at msc, and myself from msfc.”

Waite’s position as head of the Experiment Development and Integration Office at Marshall and also as a representative on the Manned Space Flight Experiment Board allowed him to facilitate this work over the next several years and to follow up the student careers for decades to follow.

The program developed was a nationwide contest for seventh – through twelfth-grade students and patterned very much like formal university space­flight projects are selected. A “Request for Proposals” was sent to all fifty states and nine overseas high schools. These proposals were to be related to research experiments in seven basic areas of study: astronomy, botany, Earth observations, microbiology, physics, physiology, and zoology. The Marshall Skylab Experiments Office, which Waite headed, was designated to manage the student program. A total of 3,409 proposals were submitted and evaluated by the National Science Teachers Association, with partici­pation from National Council for the Social Studies, NASA, and even Sky­lab flight crewmembers. From that total, twenty-five were selected as win­ners and twenty-two ended up being incorporated into the Skylab flight program, some carried out on each of the three missions. Most involved some modest hardware elements that were designed by the student principal investigators working with engineers at Marshall and structured as would be any professional program. Crew safety was always considered as well as

Student Experiments

4.6. Students chosen to participate in the Skylab science program gather on the steps of Marshall Space Flight Center’s headquarters building.

compatibility with all other experiments and systems. Design reviews and mission operations were reviewed, as were all other experiments by the Mar­shall Experiments Office.

The student program was and is considered a tremendous success. A yard­stick for success should be the degree to which student interest and enthusi­asm has carried over into career activities. While it is not possible to objec­tively measure the degree to which high-school students nationwide may have been moved to a better science and engineering awareness and career involvement, it is possible to follow most of these particular students, which Waite has done with great perseverance for decades. Among the twenty-two projects which ended up with approved and flown activities, the student Pis achieved careers as follows: six became science teachers (elementary, sec­ondary, and university levels), seven were engineers and/or scientists, three became medical doctors, four had business careers, one was a military offi­cer, and one became a monk. Many university advanced degrees are pres­ent in their biographies as well.

“Likely the most publicized experiment performed was the one proposed by Ms. Judith Miles from Lexington, Massachusetts, to observe how ‘Cross’ spiders spin their webs in space,” Waite said. “At our Skylab thirtieth anni­versary celebration in 2003, we were pleased to have Judy and some of her

family in attendance. The widespread publicity associated with the two spi­ders’ adaptation to weightlessness apparently so fascinated the general pub­lic that many adults still remember the experiments conducted over thirty years ago and have related their stories to new elementary students, so that they also now ask questions about the experiment.”

But some youngsters well before high-school age were already thinking about the mysteries of space and the sun. One of the youngest was Amy Eddy, the then-seven-year-old daughter of Jack Eddy who was a coinvesti­gator and the crews’ teacher in solar physics. His daughter’s poem was pub­lished in the NASA science publication A New Sun: The Solar Results from Skylab along with a drawing:

Operation Skylab/Barium

Skylab’s third and last crew ofastronauts, now in orbit and embarked on a full program of scientific research, is scheduled to add another important data-col – lecting task to an already full agenda. In addition to continuing investigations of the sun, Earth resources, and medical effects of long duration space flight begun by preceding Skylab crews, the astronauts are going to participate in an experiment to trace geomagnetic field lines with barium ions. Beginning with the morning of November 2j, Marine Lt. Col. Gerald P. Carr, civilian scientist Dr. Edward G. Gibson, and Air Force Lt. Col. William R. Pogue will join a widespread network of observation stations waiting for the launch of a Nation­al Aeronautics and Space Administration Black Brant iv rocket from the Poker Flat Range near Fairbanks, Alaska. The rocket payload is designed to create a high-explosive-driven jet ofbarium vapor and inject it into the Earth’s magne­tosphere. It is hoped that the barium vapor, ionized by solar ultraviolet radia­tion, will illuminate geomagnetic field lines and make them visible to sensitive optical equipment for many thousands of kilometers.

Special Camera to Photograph
Comet Kohoutek from Skylab—

As the Comet Kohoutek streams through space at speeds exceeding 160,000 kilome-
ters an hour (100,000 miles per hour), astronauts aboard the Skylab space station

will use a special camera to photograph features not visible from Earth’s surface. The camera, called a Far Ultraviolet Electronographic Camera and designated Experiment S201, was built by the Naval Research Laboratory (nrl) in Wash­ington dc. Dr. George R. Carruthersprepared the instrument for use aboard the space station during a three-month crash program.

Release No.: 73-156

The Sun

how did the sun get in her place with her round and shiny happy face who cast the shadows high and low.

I do not know, I do not know.

Science on the Cheap

One example of the diversity of the scientific experiments on Skylab was a contribution by rescue and backup crewmember Don Lind. During Apol­lo, Lind had worked with Dr. Johannes Geiss of the University of Bern in Switzerland on an experiment that would use thin metal foils to capture solar wind particles on the lunar surface. That relationship would carry over into the genesis of a similar experiment on Skylab.

“When Dr. Geiss came over for the first Apollo launch,” Don Lind said, “he stayed at our home. And he and I were over in the simulator building one day, standing in the Skylab mock-up that was getting ready for this next mission series. And one of the two of us said, ‘Can we do any good sci­ence on Skylab?’

“We said, ‘Hey, we could put some of those foils on the outside struts that hold up the atm’ and we could pick what were called precipitating magne­tospheric particles. These are particles that were coming down the magnet­ic tail of the Earth, headed toward the Earth. When they struck the Earth’s atmosphere, that’s what caused the aurora. Now the assumption was those may be solar particles, because the energy that they had was exactly what the dynamo effect would produce from the solar wind.

“We proposed that this be added to the list of experiments, and it was called S230. Every NASA center had to evaluate all of the experiments, so they sent out this proposal to all the different space centers. Every space center said, ‘We recommend that it not be approved, because all the other experi­ments were approved a year and a half ago, and it’s simply too late.’

“But I knew exactly what had to happen. It was to be mounted on a fab­ric background, so I went over to the guy at Marshall, and said which fab­ric is the best?’ He said ‘armalon,’ so we proposed armalon.

“I went down to the Cape and said, ‘What is the best installation sequence that will not give you guys any problems?’ He said if we would install the sleeve at one point in the countdown and the foil panels at a different time, there would be no stowage problem. That is exactly what we requested.

“So nobody had any reason not to approve it, except that it was, quote ‘too late.’ But there was really no technical objection to it, so it was proposed, and it was the last experiment that came in.

“All the guys had to do on the flight was, every time they went out to pick up the atm film canisters, they had to pass this spot on one of the trusses, and they’d just take off the next foil and bring it in and bring it home and that would expose the next foil below it.

“A typical space experiment costs a million dollars or ten million or some­thing, and it usually weighs a couple hundred pounds, and it takes several hours of astronaut time. Well, our experiment cost $3,500, and it weighed less than ten pounds, and all it did was require an astronaut to take literally thirty seconds to pick up one of these things on a traverse that he was going to do anyway. And we made a significant scientific discovery for $ 3,500.

“Kenny Kleinknecht, who was the head of the Skylab program at that time, said to me one time, ‘Lind, this is my favorite experiment.’ ‘Well, why’s that?’ ‘It’s the cheapest.’”

Skylab Science Demonstrations

A Skylab bonus of three unscheduled science demonstrations performed by the sl-ii crew in their spare time has resulted in plans for expansion of this activi­ty by the crew ofsl-iii. The demonstrations, to be filmed by tv, movie and still cameras, will require a degree of inventiveness from the crew and will provide a change of pace for them during the mission. The activities will also provide material for educational applications. In addition, nasa scientists believe that examination of the photographs and video data of these demonstrations will be ofconsiderable assistance in designing even more valuable and complex science experiments onboard the Space Shuttle.

All of these new activities and others added to the mission at the last min­ute meant that crew training for Skylab ill presented a real challenge. The crew had been working to prepare for one mission and suddenly found itself with little time left to prepare for a greatly expanded one. And its position as last in line made getting adequate and proper training even more diffi­cult. “We didn’t have a chance in the beginning to get much real simulator training because the two crews ahead of us were going to get it all, and all of us Skylab guys had to wait till the Apollo Program was over,” Carr said. “So even Pete Conrad and his crew were only getting catch-as-catch-can training whenever the simulator was available. We were left playing with cardboard and other low-fidelity mockups to try to figure out what to do in flight.”

Pogue agreed: “We were the last crew. The first crew dominated the simu­lators when they were training. Then obviously the second crew also had to spend a lot of time in the simulators. In addition, the backup crew required increased training when the potential arose of rescuing the second crew if their rcs [thruster] problem worsened. Thus, we were left doing only peripheral stuff. We’d go wherever they weren’t getting trained. Whichev­er simulator or trainer they weren’t using, we would use, if it wasn’t down for maintenance. Then, of course, as soon as they launched, we finally got three months of relatively intense training.”

Despite being low on the priority list for the simulators, the crew kept busy with training activities. “One of our main tasks was to help put togeth­er the training program for all Skylab crewmen, so we worked hot and heavy with people in the training department to help them brainstorm and get that sort of stuff out of the way,” Carr said. “Since we didn’t have any sim­ulators to work with, and we couldn’t do anything else, it was probably an excellent use of our time.

“We each ended up with individual jobs: Ed was the guy in charge of experiments, and particularly the solar physics experiments. He had recent­ly written a textbook called The Quiet Sun and was the solar physics expert in the astronaut corps. Ed really focused heavily in that area. Bill managed a lot of the Skylab fluid systems and other experiments. My main focus was the Skylab navigational, guidance, and related systems. We structured our training so that all of us could operate anything, but if something went wrong, there was always one expert.”

The crew put particular focus on preparing for the Earth observations tasks during their training. Jerry Carr explained: “We did not want to be in the position at a debriefing of having someone ask us about something we saw and being able to say nothing more than ‘Yeah. We saw it. Sure was pret­ty.’ We went to Ken Kleinknecht and said that we really wanted to be intel­ligent observers of the Earth when we weren’t doing other things and asked if he could help us. They gave us forty hours of training time and promised to find at least twenty world experts on various Earth phenomena. Each of them was to come to the center to give us two-hour briefings on what’s impor­tant, what they wanted to know, and how we were to look for it.

“That turned out to be probably the most exciting and rewarding of all of the experiments that we did (Ed would probably put the atm first by a nar­row margin) because it provided the opportunity to ad lib, and ad lib intel­ligently. The kinds of people we worked with included Lee Silvers, who was an earthquake-fault expert from southern California; John Campbell, who was an expert on ice formation in the northern and southern latitudes; Bob Stevenson, who was an outstanding oceanographer from La Jolla; a des­ert formation expert; and several meteorologists. These people were pro­grammed into our training, enthusiastically came to the center, and talked about what data we could acquire that would provide them with the best insights into their particular studies of the Earth.

“We thoroughly enjoyed those forty hours of training. They also gave us a lot of extra film, partially to make up for some of the film that got ruined by the high temperatures in the station early on. On balance, we were able to do pretty well with what we had.”

While the first two missions left legacies that would create challenges for the third crew, there were some benefits as well. “We drew a lot of conclu­sions from what we saw on the first two missions,” Carr said. “I think the most important one was that when the first crew came back after twenty – eight days, they were pretty wobbly, pretty weak. So the second crew and ours decided to bump up the exercise periods. Al Bean’s crew doubled their exercise period from a half hour to an hour a day. Turns out that that didn’t appear to be enough either, so we increased it again to an hour and a half.”

“We were determined that we would stay longer and come back in bet­ter condition than the previous crews,” Gibson said, “partially because we learned from their experience on how to best exercise to counter the effects of zero gravity.”

Looking at the results of the second crew’s mission, Carr saw the roots of a potential problem for his flight and took action to prevent it. “We watched the way experiments were being done, and some of our procedures were mod­ified based on what the first two crews had learned,” Carr said. “We noticed that the second crew was really hustling all the time. By the end of their mis­sion their rate of activity was extremely high. We began telling some of the managers that we didn’t think that rate of work was wise for a ninety or an eighty-four-day mission because we weren’t sure that we were going to be able to sustain it. We thought that the workload should be slacked off some and there should be more rest. Everybody agreed to that, and the experi­ments were slowed and spread out quite a bit.”

It was to be a short-lived respite, however. “Unfortunately, they then added a whole bunch of new experiments, and we allowed ourselves to get trapped into this new situation. All of these experiments that were added at the last minute came with a lot of problems that we didn’t have the time to detect and take into consideration,” Carr said. “So, when we got up there, we found that we were overcommitted just like the first crew and that we were going to have to sustain the high Skylab II work pace for eighty-four days instead of the fifty-nine that they experienced.”

“The first crews really performed well and set pretty high standards for us to live up to,” said Gibson. “But in critiquing their performance, we couldn’t let them get swelled heads. Yes, the troops on Skylab I faced temperatures of 140 degrees and did a great job of making the space station useable. But after all, it was a dry heat!

“The second crew erected a larger sun shade that further lowered the temperatures down into the comfortable range except for one hot spot that formed when the station was in nearly continuous sunlight (technically, high beta angles)—at my sleep compartment! At those times, I just floated my cot into the mda and slept there.”

Finally, launch day drew close. And then it was postponed. Skylab ill’s scheduled 10 November launch date had to be delayed when cracks were found in the fins at the base of their Saturn IB booster—something that could be blamed on the thruster problems of the second Skylab crew. The SL-4 booster had been transported to the launch pad during the summer to serve as a booster for the potential Skylab II rescue mission; it was thought that this additional period of resting on the fins had caused the cracks. After the fins were replaced, the final Skylab crew left the launch pad at one-and – a-half minutes after 10:00 a. m. on 16 November.

“I went to bed early that night knowing full well I wouldn’t sleep worth a hoot,” Jerry Carr said. “Several days earlier we had started trying to shift our circadian clocks to allow us to go to bed at something like six in the evening and then wake up at two or three in the morning. So at about four o’clock in the morning, Elmer Taylor, who was our flight crew systems coordina­tor, came into my room and said, ‘The bird’s waiting. It’s time to go.’ I had actually fallen asleep, finally, but then I awoke with a start and got up.

“The first thing scheduled was our physical. They took microbiological swabs from many parts of our bodies to find what kind of flora and fau­na were living on us. They catalogued their findings as part of a long-term experiment to determine how much microbiological material we would leave on the spacecraft and what we would pick up, if anything, left by the crews ahead of us. It turned out that we did pick up some of the bugs left behind by the Skylab II guys.

“After our physicals, we went into the crew dining room and had break­fast with Deke [Slayton], Al [Shepard], Kenny Kleinknecht, and other man­agers. It’s interesting that our meals at the crew quarters were always steaks, eggs, and all those good things that are just wonderful for cholesterol. In the subsequent years, my wife and I have totally modified our diet so that now we don’t touch any of these foods mainly because of their high choles­terol and fat content. It’s amazing that dieticians in those days thought that lots of steak and eggs was the best thing in the world for us.

“After the meal, we began suiting up. I put a watch on my ankle, although I was not supposed to be taking anything extra up. But I had this Movado, which was a self-winding watch with one of those little counterweights in it. I was very curious to find out if this self-winding watch would still work in a weightless environment or whether the weightlessness would inhibit the motion of that little counterweight and keep it from winding the watch. Our official watches, Omegas that we wore on our wrists over the pressure suit, were regular hand-wound, plain old mechanical watches. So I put the Movado on my ankle and finished suiting up.

“Launch went off perfectly. It was a beautiful, clear day. I remember when the escape tower was finally kicked off, and it took the shroud with it. The light that came in the cabin was just blinding for a minute. It was incredi­ble. I tell a lot of people that riding on a booster like that is kind of like rid­ing on a train with square wheels. You’ve got lots of noise, lots of vibration. Then sure enough, when you hit that first booster shutdown, staging, and then the next booster kicking off, it’s just exactly what everybody has called it: a train wreck. I thought that was very apt.

“We got into orbit without any problems. Everything worked just fine. Eight minutes and twenty-eight seconds later we were on orbit and things were beginning to quiet down. Looking out the window for the first time, I was totally disoriented. I didn’t recognize a thing. Suddenly, somewhere in the first thirty minutes or so, I saw Italy, and I said to myself, ‘Italy really is shaped like a boot.’ I’ve never forgotten that particular experience.”

Ed Gibson described the experience: “Liftoff is an exciting time, and any crewperson who is not excited doesn’t really understand what’s about to happen.

“On that crisp cool morning of November 16, we rode in the standard NASA van out to the launch gantry, a thirty-seven-story building, and our Saturn IB booster resting on a structure that brought the Command Module hatch to the same level as if it were on top of a Saturn v booster, a structure that resembled the world’s largest milking stool. As we rode, the big blue eyes of Al Shepard bored into each of us looking for any sign of weakness, any indication that one of these rookies was not ready to go. I looked back with a defiant smile, ‘Not you, Big Al, or anyone else is getting my seat!’

“Then we took an elevator to the top floor of the gantry, walked along a narrow but exposed hallway, and waited to get strapped into the Com­mand Module. Since I sat in the center seat under the hatch, I was the last one in, which gave me a chance to just stand outside and gaze at the vehi­cle. For most of the preflight time we were busy and didn’t have time to reflect. But then I had about twenty minutes where I could just stand back and drink it all in.

“It was dark, but the booster was brightly illuminated by search lights on the ground. Because it had just been fueled, it was creaking, popping, and groaning from the weight and frigid temperatures of the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, which caused continuous shrinking and readjustments of the metal. All of the electrical systems were up, gases were venting, and lights were blinking unlike what we had ever seen before. No longer just pas­sive metal, the vehicle had taken on a life of its own—it was alive!

“I found it difficult to get the wide grin off my face as I was strapped in. It was an exhilarating few moments of anticipation that to this day I high­ly value and feel fortunate that I had, an experience similarly noted by the previous two science pilots on their missions.

“As we waited for launch, we learned who was really in charge, who would have the last word. A few days before launch they discovered cracks in the fins on our booster. Because we were eager to go and not happy with the five-day delay required to replace the cracked fins, we started to refer to the booster as old Humpty Dumpty. Well, somehow that got out in the press and of course didn’t sit too well with those good troops who were working around the clock to get the booster ready in time. But, much to their credit they said nothing. . . at least not until twenty minutes before launch when we got a message, ‘Good luck, and God speed, from all the king’s horses and all the king’s men.’

“Finally we heard launch control start counting backwards from ten, then a tremendous sucking sound as propellants got ripped into combus­tion chambers, a noise Bill later said ‘sounded like they had just simultane­ously flushed every toilet in the Astrodome.’ Far below and lasting less than a second, we felt eight engines ignite in a ripple fire, and we crept off the pad. The front of my mind was focused on gauges and abort procedures, even as a little whisper spurted up from the back of my mind, ‘The base­ment just exploded!’

“The ride on the first stage was noisy and rough, like a Hummer doing eighty miles per hour over moguls. At about one minute into the flight, we went through the speed of sound and also reached the maximum of the aerodynamic forces and turbulence that built up as we rammed through the wall of air resistance ahead of us. The vibration became severe; I felt like a fly glued to a paint shaker. Then it smoothed out a little until staging at two minutes, which jolted us like a head-on crash quickly followed by a sharp impact from the rear.”

Bill Pogue recalled the incredible noise and vibration of the launch: “The noise caused by airflow over the booster had been building all during the first minute of launch. It was so loud that it was difficult to hear the inter­com between our suits. Once we were supersonic, all the outside noise ceased because the air noise couldn’t penetrate the shock wave attached to the Com­mand Module. Then we could hear the creaking and groaning of the struc­ture as it responded to abrupt swiveling and gimbaling of the engines. We also heard liquid propellants rushing through feed lines.

“Because of the intense vibration, I had difficulty reading my hardcopy checklist, which I was supposed to use to compare the predicted performance against our actual performance as indicated on the computer display.”

Ed Gibson said, “The second stage reminded me of a long, smooth ele­vator ride that accelerated ever faster as the mass of the propellants burned away. Eventually we weighed three times our normal weight, which was not bad because our hearts were at the same elevation as our heads so graying out was not even a possibility. But it was hard to lift a hand, and I noticed my cheeks and ears sliding towards the back of my head.

“Then, at a little over eight minutes, the engines cut off— sharply! Imme­diately, everything floated. Our spacecraft, which they tried so hard to keep clean at the Cape, filled up with small dirt and debris that floated up from its hiding places on the floor. In short order the air conditioning system cleaned it all up.

“Outside I saw the curved horizon and the coast of Florida receding. This was the best simulation yet! I looked back in to study the gauges and threw a few switches as we reconfigured the spacecraft for rendezvous with Skylab.

When I glanced out again, Italy going by and I understood what it’s like to travel at five miles a second. After a presentation when I got back, a high­way patrolman stepped forward and presented me with a ticket. Said he’d clocked me at 17,682 mph. . . in a 40.

“After several orbital maneuvers, a distant speck expanded into Skylab. It was missing one wing and a micrometeoroid-thermal shield, and it was covered by two jerry-rigged sunshades. I felt a warm glow—we had arrived at our new home. This was going to be great!”

After docking, the crew was to spend the night in their Command Mod­ule before moving into their new home. The delayed entry was prompt­ed by the problems the second crew had encountered with space sickness upon their arrival. Mission planners decided that in order to try to avoid the adaptation problems the second crew had encountered the third crew should spend a night in their Apollo capsule, giving them time to adjust to weightlessness before moving into the open volume of Skylab and getting to work. So after arriving at Skylab, instead of going inside the crew worked late stowing equipment in their Command Module.

“About that time,” Jerry Carr said, “Bill was saying, ‘I’m not really feel­ing too terribly well,’ So we talked about it, and I said, ‘Well, best thing to do, probably, is to eat. You’ll feel better.’ So we went ahead and ate our din­ner. One of Bill’s items was stewed tomatoes. He ate them down, waited for a while, then said, ‘It’s coming back up.’ So he got out his bag and barfed.

“The day before we left jsc, the doctors said, ‘Now, we’re real concerned about this space-sickness thing. We want you to take medications.’ In the medical sensitivity tests they’d done on us, they found which of the antinau­sea medications were best for each of us and which had the least side effects. The doctors said, ‘Jerry, we want you to take something. In fact, we want all three of you to take something.’ I said, ‘Wait a minute. I’m driving this multimillion-dollar vehicle, and I’m not even allowed to drive an automo­bile or fly an airplane when I take Scop-Dex [one of the medications]. Why do you want me to do it now?’ They said, ‘We don’t want you to get sick.’ I said, ‘I’ll take the sickness rather than the disorientation,’ and decided not to take the medication.

“Well, Bill wanted to be a good patient and said, ‘Okay. I’m not driving, and I’ll be able to manage fine, so I’ll take the Scop-Dex.’ What surprised us was that Bill was the one who got sick. Whenever Bill and I went up in a

Т-38 to do acrobatics, I was usually the one that turned green, not Bill, and he had taken the medication!”

Gibson agreed: “We called Bill ‘Old Iron Ears.’ You could never make him sick on the ground. Put him in a rotating chair, and he’d never get sick. He used to fly for the Thunderbirds, so you figure that if there’s anybody going to get sick, it’d be me, the real novice, or maybe even Jerry, but not Bill, which showed us that we didn’t really understand the problem.”

Bill Pogue said, as his experience proved, “There’s not a direct correlation between who suffers from motion sickness on the ground and who has prob­lems in space. I’ve observed that people who are susceptible to motion sick­ness, particularly susceptible, on Earth tend to not be in space, and vice ver­sa. Clearly someone like me who went through the full limit of head motions at the highest rpm in the rotating chair at the Pensacola naval facility and could have continued indefinitely is, by definition, highly resistant to motion sickness on the ground. They never could make me sick. But who got sick first on Skylab? I did. It’s sort of an inverse relationship.”

Faced with Pogue’s sickness, the crew discussed what to do about it. One of the biggest things on their mind was the burden they carried for the future. Right then, down on Earth, work was beginning on the Space Shuttle. Right then, also down on Earth, there were those in Congress who were opposed to the program. The success of the Space Shuttle depended on astronauts being able to make that one-shot glider landing. Sick astro­nauts, the Shuttle’s opponents would argue, would not be able to make that landing. The future, it seemed, was resting on the third crew proving that there wouldn’t be a problem.

And so with the future of spaceflight in mind, they decided what to do about Pogue’s sickness: “With all the pressure they were putting on us not to get sick, Ed and I said, ‘Well, look. Maybe we just won’t say anything,’” Jer­ry Carr recalled, “In fact we thought it might even be best to toss the vom­it down the Trash Airlock and not to report it. That way we wouldn’t get people all fuzzed down on the ground, and we could get the mission off to a smooth start. We knew we had a lot to do. So we said, ‘Okay. That’s what we’ll do. We hope Bill will feel better tomorrow, and we can press on.’

“Well, unfortunately Bill, being the sick one, was also the guy in charge of the communication system, and he had left the switch on to the equip­ment that was recording all the intercom conversation. So while we slept that night, people on the ground played it back and heard all of our previous conversations. The next morning, Al Shepard came up on the Capcom loop and said something like, ‘You guys have made a mistake here, and I hope you haven’t destroyed the vomitus bag.’ I said, ‘No, we haven’t done anything like that, and I agree with you. It was a dumb decision. We’ll put it in our medical report, weigh it, do all the necessary things, and go from here.

“So they discovered that we were trying to conceal information, which we felt pretty bad about. But that was our motive: we didn’t want to fuzz things up anymore on the ground. It was dumb. Yet we did it, we wish we hadn’t, but we did.”

That mistake behind them, it was time for the third Skylab mission to truly begin. After a night’s sleep, the crew awoke and prepared to move into the space station. “The next morning, Bill wasn’t feeling great but he was feeling better,” Carr said. “Ed and I were both okay. I had a feeling in my stomach that was kind of like a big knot, but I wasn’t sick. Ed just didn’t have any problems at all. We always thought that was kind of a marvel. Ed, the one who had the least flying time, was the nonsick one.”

The crew opened hatch and entered Skylab. Upon moving in, though, the crew found that they were not alone. Three figures, wearing the unmis­takable brown Skylab flight suits were waiting for them in the workshop. Before their departure, the Skylab II crew had stuffed the suits and posed them at various work locations on the lower deck. “When we arrived, we found three dummies that had been packed and put there by three previ­ous dummies,” Carr said. “It was quite a surprise to roll down through the tunnel and come across three other people in the spacecraft that we weren’t expecting.”

“Because we were really rushed at the beginning,” Ed Gibson said, “we left the dummies where they were for quite a while. Every time I was down there, I felt them staring at me, inspecting everything I did, but not lifting a hand to help—eerie.

“During those initial days, there was a real adaptation to zero gravity that had to take place. When launched, we were literally thrust into a whole new environment. When I looked in the mirror, a pumpkin looked back, a round red head with bright red eyeballs. No longer countered by gravity, my heart and arteries continued to ram blood up towards my head. It felt like I was lying down back here on Earth with my feet a little over my head. But after a few days, I lost about three pounds ofwater as did Jerry and Bill. Jerry and I then felt pretty good, but Bill continued to suffer.

“After working hard to become efficient, it all started to seem so easy, so effortless—from a physical standpoint. That’s because one of the real prob­lems with the stresses of spaceflight is that there were none. With no grav­ity to work against, our muscles weakened if we didn’t exercise enough, and our bones slowly lost calcium and also weakened, just like bedridden patients down here.

“But we had learned what exercises to do from the previous crews, and we lengthened our workout durations 50 percent above those of Skylab 11. We wanted to not only walk out of the Command Module at the end of our flight under our own power, we wanted to be in better condition than the previous crew, even though we would be in zero gravity over 40 percent lon­ger. We dedicated ourselves to that goal and continued to aggressively pur­sue it through strenuous workouts throughout the full duration of the mis­sion. And we succeeded.”

Between the missions on Skylab, ground control had dumped the pres­sure in the station down to a quarter of a psi. They had then repressurized it to provide pure, clean atmosphere. “I recollect that when I first entered Skylab,” said Pogue, “my first impression was, ‘Boy, it’s cold in here.’ But it felt really good, especially after having the nausea event the day before. Of course I also knew it was going to be big, but after entering, I felt, ‘This real­ly is big!’ Our immediate problem on entry into Skylab was trying to find all the right books and other things that we had to use. We worked till about 10:30 p. m. Houston time that first day just trying to get caught up.”

The enormity of Skylab created a situation never encountered before on a space mission. “Skylab was so large that they actually lost me one morn­ing,” said Gibson. “Skylab had many different compartments, and I was in the Orbital Workshop trying to find some of the old procedures that the pre­vious crew had left. I was buried deep down behind the freezers where they had stowed most of the previous mission data. When Jerry and Bill start­ed looking for me, they just glanced in the workshop and didn’t see a soul. Then they looked outside and said, ‘Hey, the Command Module’s still here. The hatch is not open. Guess he hasn’t left. So then, where is he?’ When I finally floated into view they said, ‘Where the heck have you been?’ So, it was possible to get lost in Skylab.”

Also the use of the same spacecraft by different crews created problems. Items got misplaced or totally lost, making it harder for each successive crew to operate.

“Skylab gave our nation its first experience with long-duration spaceflights in large spacecraft,” said Bill Pogue. “It had an internal volume of 12,500 cubic feet, the volume of a three-bedroom house. The huge forward com­partment was twenty-one feet in diameter and over twenty-five feet high. This spacious volume, numerous stowage lockers, and our longer missions led to some problems we had not encountered before. Some were amusing, but others were downright aggravating.

“Floating through the forward hatch of the forward compartment I saw Ed floating a few feet off the grid floor twenty-five feet below and obvious­ly out of reach of any handholds or other structure. I lunged toward him, gave him a shove, and, like two billiard balls, we went flying off in different directions toward the walls where we could grab something. We were both laughing as we went back to work.

“In other instances, the multiplicity of lockers and stowage locations led to frustrating problems and delays. One evening my flight activity message for the next day directed me to recharge the fluid level in a water loop used to cool an electronics package. The job looked simple: get a couple of tools, a flashlight to observe the accumulator, and a long hose that stretched from our water tanks to the work site, and then follow the procedure and restow everything. A piece of cake? Well, not quite.

“The hose wasn’t where it was supposed to be. No problem! I’ll just call ground and get some help, but it would be another twenty minutes before I could call Houston (no relay satellites back in ’73). I started looking in lock­ers adjacent to the one designated in the procedure and anywhere else that seemed like a logical place to stash it, but it was all to no avail.

“At the next aos, I explained the problem and asked if they could get in touch with Jack Lousma to see if he could remember where he put it after the last use. Jack is a highly disciplined individual, and I was confident he could tell me right where to find it. Jack was busy mowing the lawn at his home in Friendswood a few miles from jsc when he got a call from Mis­sion Control. He wiped the some of his sweat off and said he did remember using it, but if it wasn’t in the designated stowage location, he didn’t have the foggiest notion of where it might be.

“When I learned that Jack couldn’t help, I really felt defeated. Howev­er, Capcom had an alternative approach and told me where I could get two shorter hoses to connect together that would span the distance. I did, it worked, and I was able to finish the servicing task, exceeding allotted time by only a factor of five. Incidentally, I never found the hose. We had a stow­age book, which was generously cross-referenced, but the book only told us where an item was supposed to be.

“We had other cases of mysterious disappearances. Once a set of calibra­tion weights just vanished, and I spent four hours on my day off looking for them. They never did turn up. A systems checklist apparently floated away and was missing for weeks until Jerry flushed it out from its hiding place with thruster blasts from the maneuvering unit [the Manned Maneuvering Unit prototype tested inside Skylab].

“We lost other items, some of which eventually did turn up. One day when I whirled around to get a camera to take a picture of Hawaii, my eyeglasses flew off. I heard them bouncing around through the experiment compart­ment as I was taking the picture, but when I went to get them, they were gone. Three days later, Ed found them floating near the ceiling in his sleep compartment.

“Frequently our tableware, usually a knife, would get knocked off the mag­netized surface on our food trays and get caught in the airflow, which gently wafted it to the intake screen of the air duct system. It would hover there on the surface until retrieved. The screen became our lost and found depart­ment and the first place we looked whenever something was missing.

“Fortunately, today there is technology that can solve the problem. Tags placed on stowed items respond to an interrogation device and reveal their location using rf energy from the locator. It’s just what we need. Let’s hope it’s implemented on [the International Space Station], which ultimately will have more volume and surface area than Skylab. Otherwise, it’s back to the Skylab mode of operation: If it isn’t there, then happy hunting.”

The large volume also provided some interesting opportunities. Ed Gib­son said, “One night I could not resist the temptation of Skylab’s large open volume, and I tried sleeping out there floating completely free. It was the ulti­mate in relaxation—no pressures on your body whatsoever. Once I relaxed, my knees would bend slightly and my arms would float out straight, just like the position I had assumed floating in water many times on Earth. After a few

minutes, I would drift off into a nice. . . relaxing . . . quiet. . . whack!

“I had drifted into a wall that jarred me awake. During all subsequent tries, I remained poised just wondering when, where, and what I would hit again. It just didn’t work. Once I even ended up on the air intake screen in the ows, our lost and found department that usually rounded up consider­ably smaller objects. Eventually, I discovered that all I had to do was to slip an arm or leg under a bungee cord, and I could drift right off to sleep.

“Sleeping turned out not to be difficult at all without gravity in our sacks, especially early in the flight when we all were exhausted. If we did have trou­ble turning off because we worked right up to the time we floated into our sacks, reading was usually a good sleep aid. This situation was about the only time we did pull out a book. Time in space was too valuable to use for things we could do on the ground, a sentiment previously stated by Owen on Skylab 11.

“The fifteen sunrises and sunsets a day that we experienced could pres­ent a problem when trying to turn off and go to sleep. If you made the mis­take of sneaking out of the sack to look out the window, you might see Chi­na at high noon, and you then had the difficult task of convincing your mind and body that it really was time to sleep. Also early in the mission if you were clumsy in your sneaking, the guys watching Skylab’s rate gyros on the ground could tell you were up and might just call up and ask you to do ‘just one more thing.’ Later in the mission those ‘one more things’ got ruled out.”

With Pogue still suffering somewhat from space sickness, the crew tried to compensate for the reduced manpower available. “Bill and I decided to change jobs because my job was a little more sedentary than his,” Carr said. “So we swapped checklists and went on. Bill was able to stay quiet and get my work done while I did his. It worked out well. For the next couple of days, when Bill got to feeling a little funny, we would swap jobs. But for the most part, Bill was able to pick up and carry his load without any trou­ble at all.”

Despite their best effort, however, the crew began to run into what would become the second major problem of their stay on Skylab. “The schedule caught up with us,” Jerry Carr said, “We found that we had allowed our­selves to be scheduled on a daily schedule that was extremely dense. If you missed something, if you made a mistake and had to go back and do it again,

or if you were slow in doing something, you’d end up racing the clock and making more mistakes, screwing up more on an experiment and in gener­al just digging a deeper hole for yourself.

“The schedule was very tight, and we were hustling each and every min­ute just trying to meet it. That went on for many, many days. It was hard on morale. We were rushed and not able to get things done and experi­ments completed. We knew, we were just sure, that the experimenters on the ground were grinding their teeth when we had to report, ‘Well, I didn’t get your experiment done because, in my rush, I put the wrong filter in, or I made another error.’ We found that it was almost to the point where you had to schedule time to go the bathroom.

“Then we discovered that we had been scheduled at nearly the same rate that the second crew had achieved at the end of their flight! That explained why we were having so much trouble keeping up. But by the time that was finally recognized, we had achieved a skill level that was adequate to get the work done.

“After the first few days, we realized that eating three meals together was not an efficient use of time. However, we did have dinner together so that we would make sure we were functioning as a cohesive crew, and we each also needed that bit of social contact. It turned out to be a great decision. But after dinner, we’d go right back to the experiments and work till prob­ably nine o’clock at night when it would be time to wind down and go to bed. So at ten o’clock, when we were supposed to be in bed, none of us were ready to go to sleep because we still had things to pick up and put away and other things to do. Our minds were still moving too fast to rest. So, we just weren’t getting the right kind of rest and the right kind of leisure time that would allow us to do things right.

“Finally we began to get a little bit testy. In order to make up time on some of the experiments, to account for some of our fluffs, they had to redouble efforts to tighten the schedule even more. They were juggling our exercise around, and we ended up in several cases having to exercise right after a meal. That’s no time to be exercising, particularly up there where you couldn’t belch because with your food floating around inside you, you were liable to get it back with your belch.

“So we started grousing at them about that, they were working hard try­ing to keep us up with the schedule, we were giving them a hard time, and they were giving us a hard time. Finally we reached a point in the mission when we just had to take a day off. We had set up a ten-day week with the tenth day as a day off when we could do what we wanted. That was also to be the day when we could take a shower in our makeshift shower. But we gave back our first two or three days off. We said, ‘Go ahead and schedule us, and we’ll do some makeup work.’ Well, we got to the point where our morale was low, we were feeling lousy, and we were really getting drained. So we said ‘Let’s take our day off and get a good day’s rest. It’ll get us back in good shape again, and we can begin to maintain the pace.’

“So we took our day off and did what we wanted to do. We each took a shower. Bill and I did some reading, looking out the window, Earth obser­vations, photography, and other things. Ed worked his own schedule at the atm panel, did some relatively simple experiments, and made some ad lib observations. We had a good day.”

“Though we didn’t understand it at the time,” Ed Gibson said, “we and Mission Control were about to learn some valuable lessons for the future—les­sons that had to be learned sometime, and each of us, playing our respective roles, were the unsuspecting students.

“We found it disheartening to be in a situation where you could never catch up; it’s only a question of how far you are behind. We just pushed the buttons as fast as we could and moved on to the next. We were not used to working in that mode, and we didn’t plan on it being that way. An image of my high-school track coach flashed into my mind. With a wide grin he gave me a tip, ‘If you want to win the quarter-mile race, sprint the first hun­dred yards then just gradually increase your pace.’ ‘Thanks for that bit of wisdom, Coach.’ And that’s exactly what we’re trying to do here.

“Early in the mission we used our time at night and other open times to work to catch up. Later on I used these times to perform ad hoc experi­ments, such as the study of fluids in zero gravity, or when several open hours appeared, I’d go to my favorite spot, the atm control panel, where there was no end to challenges and opportunities to learn and contribute. I remember these open times the most, times when I had a chance to use some creativi­ty; the rush to continually catch up is remembered as just a blur.

“Of course our rushed pace caused mistakes, and I still chuckle about one of them: the televising of an experiment or other event. The switch to turn on the video tape recorder was not controlled by the camera but located in the mda, which was usually far from the subject that we were televising. More than once and always in a rush, I got the subject all nicely prepped, the mike and camera turned on, and started to record, or so I thought. Eventually when I’d realize that the video recorder wasn’t on, I’d drop every thing and streak into the mda muttering some rather creative profanities as I went. All too late I also realized the voice recording was on. ‘Oops, sorry ground.’

“The situation was compounded a bit because people had not yet ful­ly come to grips with the fact that Skylab was a different animal than all the relatively short missions to date. As in ascent, reentry, eva, or hazard­ous aircraft operations, which preceded spaceflight, it is absolutely essen­tial that nominal and malfunction procedures be spelled out in detail, sim­ulated with fidelity, then followed precisely. It’s a mindset that keeps people alive. However, once the hazardous operations give way to a normal day-to­day type of operations, like we usually experience here on Earth, it’s time to back off the rigid specification of every action, set goals and objectives, and let the people on the spot use their intelligence to perform to the best of their abilities.

“Because of everybody’s heritage and life-long conditioning, it was a tough mindset to break. As we began to get behind early in our flight, Mission Control, God love ’em, tried to help us as best they could in the only way they knew how: plan to the hilt and specify the procedures in detail. One morning we got a teleprinter message enumerating that day’s activities that stretched from the Command Module down to the Trash Airlock, a dis­tance of sixty-five feet!

“We wanted to be given some latitude in how we applied the brush strokes to the canvas; Mission Control, in their sincere efforts to help us, wanted us to continue painting by the numbers and in areas of ever decreasing size.

“I believe another contributing factor was that we lacked adequate inte­grated training with the Mission Control team. This team and ourselves never really understood what the other was thinking and planning before launch. Usually integrated training is done as much to train Mission Con­trol as the crew, but they’d been through it all with the first two missions and weren’t eager to revisit that ‘demanding boredom’ more than absolute­ly necessary. So when they came to us with a set of procedures, we simply said, ‘You’ve been through it all before, and we haven’t. So, we’ll just do it.’ But that didn’t allow us to develop much interaction, communication, and real rapport with the Mission Control team before we reached Skylab. This lack of flight experience and the time crunch led us to just accept almost all suggestions presented to us without question or resistance even when it really would have been appropriate.

“Lastly, the situation was further compounded by lack of open commu­nication after liftoff. You couldn’t just call down and say, ‘Hey, guys, let’s talk this out,’ because everything had to be open for the whole world to hear including the sensationalism-seeking press. So we thought, ‘Okay, we’ll just work through it.’ But that stoic approach didn’t work.”

As with the previous two crews, one form of open conversation was rel­ished by the crew of Skylab ill. “Every third day we had a link to the real world when we each got to talk with our families for ten to fifteen minutes,” Gibson said. “We really looked forward to those talks. Once I was describ­ing the awesome beauty of fires that I could see all along the African coast­line, a result of the farmers’ policy of slash burning. I pictured my family hanging with breathless anticipation on every word. Then I heard Julie, my youngest daughter, say, ‘Mommy, can I go out and play?’”

“We each really looked forward to talking with our families,” said Pogue. “However, the news wasn’t what we wanted to hear. Before our mission, I went by the office that handled government employees’ life insurance at jsc and asked if I could pay three months ahead to cover the time I would be on Skylab. I was told that a prepayment wasn’t possible but that the policy would be held effective until I returned. The bureaucracy didn’t coordinate too well within itself (or maybe it knew something that we didn’t) because my wife told me that we had just gotten a letter informing us that my poli­cy had lapsed and was about to be canceled.”

“One day in the midst of all our efforts to get back on schedule,” said Gib­son, “we were each working hard and lost in our individual worlds when we heard ‘bang! . . . bang! bang!’ The attitude control system thrusters, for the first time on our flight, had fired to help the Control Moment Gyros counteract the gradient of gravity trying to torque Skylab off target. As we worked inside the huge ows tank, it sounded like someone was outside work­ing over the tank with an equally huge sledgehammer. Now I know what it would be like to live inside a drum.”

While the crew bore the burden of getting back on schedule, they should not have borne the blame for being behind. According to lead flight director

Neil Hutchinson, “If you’ve read anything on the third manned flight, you know ‘we,’ the ground, and I who was right in the middle of it, were on the wrong side of the work scheduling issue. It was clearly a mistake on my and the control center’s part. We expected those three guys to pick right up where the Skylab II guys left off. We did not give them one ounce of zero-G time to get used to it; that is, to do the task a few times and then schedule it tight­er. When they got up there, Bill wasn’t feeling very good, which is another thing we’ve now come to accept as well. Yes, it happens, so what. But it was still kind of spooky back then when these guys were getting sick, which was not the fighter pilot image. Oh, what were we going to do?

“Once the guys got up there, I went through the activation, they did a terrific job. Then on the third day we sent a flight plan up that was like the day after the last flight plan of Skylab II, which we didn’t get done when the last flight crew returned. Of course we had practiced some with them on the ground before they launched. We had simulated between the umanned missions with each upcoming crew while we were unmanned for a while. Still it was a serious mistake on the part of the control center because we just expected Bill, Ed, and Jerry to just jump right on the bandwagon and take off.

“On their side of the equation, there was not enough communication ear­ly on to let us know that we were getting them in trouble. They were pretty quiet about it. Again it was the fighter-pilot mentality. ‘I’ll be damned if I’m going to cry “uncle.” I’m going to just keep trying to get this done. If they keep sending me a flight plan I can’t get done, I’m just going to try again.’

“Of course as we continued to press them, more mistakes begin to be made, more than we had seen with the other crews. And then you began to wonder, ‘Hmmm, what’s going on here?’ I think it might have been even a year or two later that I sat back, looked at that whole thing, and said, ‘You know, we really did something stupid. They didn’t cry “uncle” soon enough even though they had an absolutely valid reason for doing so. The control center had fouled up, and we just kept fouling up until we got them all fouled up too.’

“In the end of course they turned out to be every bit as good as the oth­er guys. They really turned out the stuff. You wouldn’t have believed that they were up there for nearly three months.

“It’s funny, one of those guys, Ed Gibson, has since become a very good friend of mine, and he and I have chatted about this off and on. He knows a lot about what went on there. It was clearly a case of the control center not recognizing that people needed some zero-G adjustment time before they could really be productive. There was just no point in pushing them early on, because they weren’t going to get the job done. We don’t do that these days on the Shuttle. We let them get really organized first.”

Public relations were also impacted by air-ground communications: “In an effort to increase our efficiency,” said Gibson, “we occasionally would have only one of us listening to the voice traffic from the ground and respond­ing to it while the other two of us turned off our radios and worked with­out interruption. We each signed up for an orbit as the radio-response guy. Well one day we made a mistake and for a whole orbit we all had our radi­os off!”

“When we came up to aos over one of the sites,” said Carr, “the ground called us, and we didn’t answer them for a whole orbit. Regrettably that caused a lot of concern down on the ground. And of course the press just thought that was wonderful. They said, ‘Look at that. These testy, crabby old astronauts up there won’t even answer the radio now. They’ve turned it off and won’t listen to the ground anymore.’ We’ve had to live under that stigma they falsely created ever since.”

“Problems that surfaced early in our mission were created by competent, well-intentioned people,” said Gibson. “The exceptions were the dramatic stories fabricated by the media and later repeated and exaggerated in a book on Skylab and a Harvard Business School study. There was no ‘strike in space’ by any stretch of the imagination. What could we threaten to do, go live on the moon? If any of these writers had gotten their information from just one of us, the crew or other people directly involved, responsible reporting and validity would have prevailed over expediency and sensationalism.”

While finally taking a day off gave the crew a much-needed break and helped relieve some of the stress they were under, it didn’t really change the situation. “Right after our real day off,” Jerry Carr said, “we got right back onto the treadmill, and things weren’t getting any better. Finally after sev­eral weeks into the mission, it all came to a head. After dinner we always had a medical conference with the flight surgeon where we would tell him how we were doing physically, and we give him the readings for the food that we’d eaten and the water we’d drunk and all other data that they need­ed for their metabolic analysis. I said, ‘You know, I think we need to have

a seance here.’ I told him about our situation, that we weren’t too terribly happy and that we were quite sure the ground wasn’t happy either. ‘It’s time for us to have a discussion, a frank discussion. We can do it on this chan­nel if they want.’

“That request went down to the doctors, they passed the word, and, when the press got a hold of it, they raised Cain. So Mission Control came back and said, ‘We’re going to have to do it on the open circuit.’ I said, ‘That’s fine.’

“So one evening we started talking with ground as we came up over Gold – stone [California]. We had the whole U. S. pass, essentially, for me to tell them all the things that were bothering us. ‘We need more time to rest. We need a schedule that’s not quite so packed. We don’t want to exercise after a meal. We need to get the pace of things under control.’ Then we said, ‘Okay, now, next pass over the U. S., you guys please tell us what your problems are.’

“So during the next U. S. pass, they bent our ear with all of the things that we were doing, including our rigidity that made it difficult for them to have the flexibility to schedule us how they needed to. We came back with, ‘Let’s think about it overnight and try to come up with a solution by the morning.’

“The next morning they sent a teletype message in which they recom­mended quite a few things. The most important one was to take all of the menial, routine housekeeping chores out of the schedule and put them on what we called a shopping list. They were things that needed to be done that day but not at any particular time. Of course, they still had to hard schedule those activities that were required at a specific time or location in orbit. By opening up the schedule that way, they really took the pressure off. We were no longer racing the clock to get things done. It solved the problem.

“They also said, ‘We’re not going to hassle you anymore during meals or give you any major assignments after dinner. After dinner is relaxation time for you. Do a few things like some student experiments, but we’re not going to have any major experiments after dinner.’

“We said ‘That sounds great. Let’s go with it!’ And it worked beautiful­ly. It’s a testimony to the human condition. Henry Ford probably learned it on his assembly line. The line can only go so fast before you start mak­ing mistakes.

“We also felt that the extra time was needed to do some creative think­ing. As a result of having all that extra time, we were all able to gin up some experiments that we had wanted to do and put on TV. Some of the results are being used today in schools such as short physics experiments and experi­ments with water in zero gravity. The loosening of the schedule really solved the problem. We got the more important experiments done immediately or at a required time, and everything else got done when we could. That flexi­bility gave us some control, put us in positive frame of mind, and increased our productivity. Everybody won!”

“After the crew came back and we had gotten through the debriefing pro­cess,” Neil Hutchinson recalled, “it was pretty obvious that we had had some real scheduling and performance problems at the beginning of the flight. There have been a couple of books written that stated that there was a strike in space even though that was clearly not the case. There is even a Harvard Business School case about it. If you get an MBA at Stanford or somewhere, you’re likely to get the Harvard Business School case about Skylab ill. They talk about people’s expectations and miscommunication as part of a man­agement process. I don’t know if it’s a good example or not.

“I just look on it as a time when we just weren’t thinking straight. We should have seen it even though it was very insidious because the mistakes were little at first. Just every once in a while you kind of caught in some­body’s tone of voice that he was irritated. It was not a good scene, but yes, good lessons were learned.”

Ed Gibson noted that, long before Skylab ill, he had experienced slow starts: “As a little kid, I was slow, a lethargic dreamer. One of my earliest memories is that of lying on the living room floor, drawing pictures of the solar system, and dreaming. I sensed a fascinating and never-ending world in the night sky and inherently knew that, somehow, I had to become part of it.

“However, at an early age, I had contracted osteomyelitis, a bone infec­tion in my leg; and amputation, the standard treatment, was contemplated. That would have really slowed me up. But first, my doctor thought a newly developed drug called ‘penicillin’ was worth a try. It worked.

“Then I encountered another roadblock: me. Dreamers make poor stu­dents, and the kindest thing I can say about my early academic career is that I was president of my first-grade class — two years in a row! Fortunately fail­ure was not in my dad’s makeup, and he was determined it wouldn’t be in mine either. My performance in high school rocketed up to mediocre. At

the University of Rochester, the only school that would accept me, I decid­ed it was then or never, and I got to work.

“The world of high-performance aircraft and rockets, steps towards the stars, fascinated me, but because I once had osteomyelitis, I could never pass a military flight physical. I had to accept my destiny as a ‘ground pounder’ and developed the skills to design what I couldn’t fly. It was a slower paced life than I wanted. That’s when my wife read me the article in the L. A. Times that ultimately led to my presence on Skylab. Julie has always been my most ardent supporter and constructive critic. Anything I’ve been priv­ileged to do would never have been possible without her support at every step along the way.

“I guess slow starts are in my blood.”

Others on the ground reflected on the situation. Skylab II commander Alan Bean said that the failure of NASA to shift gears after his mission was a major factor: “I think Mission Control should have gone back to how they started with us. I believe that they started them out near where we ended, rather than maybe io to 15 percent less. Kraft called Pete and me over to talk with him and his managers. I told them, ‘Mission Control plans to lighten up on these guys, but they don’t ever do it. They have to lighten up and let these guys catch their breath.’ Then finally Jerry Carr said ‘We’re not going to do this anymore, because we can’t.’ And he was right. They couldn’t. We couldn’t do it on Day 1—or 2 or 3 or 4 or 5—either.”

Bob Crippen, crewmember of smeat and Capcom for all three Skylab missions said: “I can see how the situation developed over the course of the three missions. On Conrad’s crew, most of that time was spent repairing Skylab so that it would function, and we didn’t really work that hard on the experiments. Then Bean and his crew went up, started off at a slow rate, and then kind of built up speed and got more efficient, and we accelerated after them. At the end of that mission, we on the ground were used to oper­ating at about that pace. And then here comes the new crew, Jerry Carr and his guys, and we started scheduling things at about the same rate that the last guys had ended up with.

“Part of what my job as Capcom was to try to sense what was going on, and truthfully, they were having some problems here and there, and we tried to scale back a little bit while we were doing scheduling at night. It was not until Jerry finally requested the conference to work things out that

Mission Control really understood what was happening. It took that to hit us on the head.

“But that’s also the job of the crew because when you’re sitting on the ground and trying to communicate only over the radio, it is hard to put your­self in their position in orbit. That’s one of the responsibilities of the com­mander —to come back and say, ‘Hey, this doesn’t work and that doesn’t work.’ They have to let us know what’s really going on.

“The ground controllers, my flight director [Don Puddy], and I were upset because we had not seen the problem coming on as big as it did and had not appreciated the extent that it was actually affecting the crew. They just kept trying to make things work without telling us about their difficulties.

“Even though we all initially got off on the wrong foot, Jerry, Bill, and Ed did super once we got things back on track. And no, there was no rebel­lion. I think the rest of the flight directors and the Capcoms would certain­ly say the same thing.”

With the scheduling problems worked out, the contrast was sharp. No longer held back by these difficulties, the crew’s performance accelerated rapidly. The slow start was behind them. “As it turned out, when the mission was over, we had completed every one of the experiments that we needed to do, plus a lot of extra ones that we dreamed up,” Carr said. And although it was not obvious to everyone at the time, valuable progress had been made in moving America’s space operations experience forward.

“As our mission progressed, Mission Control and we learned together how best to achieve the highest performance,” said Gibson. “They were hard – won lessons, and because of past history and philosophy of operations, they were inevitable lessons that had to be learned either right there on our mis­sion or ultimately on early space station missions.”

Throughout the whole mission, atm (solar observations) was an area that received considerable attention. “When we studied the sun,” Ed Gibson said, “we used the atm panel to monitor and control seven different instru­ments that ‘looked’ at the sun in visible light rays all the way down to x-rays. Even though I helped design the panel, it was a still a highly demanding and sometimes humbling task. Choices had to be continually made in space, time, and wavelength, sometimes within seconds, for experiment observa­tions and then translated into panel switch actuations. The Joint Observing

Programs helped quite a bit, but the real value of having a human at the con­trols was when targets of opportunity arose and we’d have to put the sheet music away and play more by ear.

“I had a background in plasma physics from Caltech (the sun is one big ball of hot plasma), and I also had studied solar physics ever since I knew I had a chance to fly Skylab. I used the writing of a textbook as a way to focus my efforts and gain more credibility to help put my body into one of the three front-row seats on launch day. I still found the atm a major challenge and empathized with other crewmen whose expertise lay elsewhere. How­ever, after being an operator of Skylab and the atm for eighty-four days, I feel strongly that mental challenges of this magnitude are essential to main­tain sanity on future long-duration missions.

“The most demanding task was trying to capture the birth of a flare, which lasts only a minute or two. Understanding a flare’s triggering mech­anism is essential if we are ever going to be able to predict when and where flares will occur. The difficulty came in because almost all instruments used film to record their data, a limited supply of film that could be rapidly consumed during the high data acquisition rates required by flare observa­tions. We had only so much film onboard and [a limited number of} evas to replace it. Thus, we were in a Catch-22. How do you know when to go into flare observations until a flare is well underway; that is, past its birth and well into its teenage years? It took a while to get the hang of it, and the extreme ultraviolet light monitor was indispensable.

“It was in the xuv monitor that one could see an active region start to simmer. It was almost like watching a pot of water getting ready to boil. When were the releases of points of xuv radiation (like the formation of little bubbles on the bottom of a pan) rapid and intense enough to predict the eruption of a flare (like large bubbles exploding upward to bring cha­os to the water)?

“Late in the mission I intently stood guard over the atm panel during my scheduled times of atm operation or any of my free time. After many hours of concentration and a few cases of infant mortality, I did catch a flare very early in its life (maybe even still just a toddler). It was much earlier than we’d been able to get data up to that time!

“I’m confident that given high resolution displays of the high energy emis­sions from the sun (xuv and x-rays) and the time to really study them, the true birth of a flare could be observed. Of course, these days the problem can be brute forced by continuous acquisition of electronic data on active regions at ultra high rates.”

A NASA press release at the time explained, “A solar flare recorded on Jan­uary 21, 1974 by the Skylab sl-iii mission has created considerable excitement within the worldwide solar physics community. The flare was not large by comparison with those recorded on previous Skylab flights. Ground observ­ers classified it as a medium sized flare. The excitement stems from the news that for the first time in the history of the Skylab missions, a solar flare has been recorded from its beginning through its expiration.”

“Also on our mission,” Ed Gibson said, “the liftoff of a huge prominence on the limb was observed by the coronagraph instrument. The resulting data yielded one of the classic pictures resulting from all of the atm mis­sions. The solar observatory in Hawaii saw the prominence start to liftoff and notified atm scientists in Houston. It was night for us so all three of us were fast asleep. Fortunately, the coronagraph was one instrument that could be operated remotely by the ground.

“Like on previous missions, we also observed the sun hurl out massive amounts of material called coronal mass ejections or cmes. The light from the corona is usually very faint. In contrast, cmes are seen as tight, ragged – edged knots of very intense light that explode outward at tremendous speeds. If conditions are right, some of the cme material can impact our upper atmo­sphere, our magnetosphere, and play havoc with our communications and electrical power grids on Earth. These events are commonly called solar storms.

“Although lunar geologists and space doctors would give me an argu­ment, I maintain that the atm was the best application of a human’s scien­tific knowledge and judgment in space ever accomplished.

“On the previous mission, atm operations also set a precedent when prin­cipal investigators were allowed to talk directly to the crew. The first time out of the box it was a pressure packed event but Bob MacQueen, an atm experimenter, did an excellent job. On our mission we also had a few dis­cussions with those who were ultimately responsible for the scientific return from several experiments, but we would have liked more.

“Several years after our flight, I talked to a cosmonaut who had flown much longer than we did on Skylab ill. They had a somewhat looser opera­tion. After gaining some familiarity with an experiment before flight, they

Skylab Science Demonstrations

39- Ed Gibson at the atm console.

would have a private one-on-one discussion with the investigator the night before it was to be performed. No end-to-end rigorous detailed procedures and timelines were usually created or desired. I believe that a middle ground, the Goldilocks solution, will achieve the highest scientific return.”

With the crew performing at high efficiency and rapidly catching up with and surpassing the tasks that had been planned preflight, they found time to laugh at themselves. “About half way through the mission,” Gibson recalled, “we all noticed water collecting on one on the panels in the Lower Equip­ment Bay of the Command Module. We thought it would be a bad situation if that water ever seeped into a compartment full of the electronics.

“Jerry took the initiative to get some cloth towels and soak up the water. He did a very neat job. Not wishing to waste the towels, he hung them out to dry in the ows. We all slapped our foreheads when the water evaporat­ed from the towels and went straight back to the coldest spot in the sta­tion — the Lower Equipment Bay—from where it had just come! We’d just found another way to keep a Skylab crewman busy.”

“Ed and Bill dreamed up more experiments than you could shake a stick at,” Carr said. “I think one of the funniest pieces of footage I’ve ever seen is

from one of Bill’s experiments. He wanted to demonstrate that, although air is a fluid, a medium just like water, it’s a lot harder to kick, paddle, or swim to get somewhere. He made some big cardboard fins for his hands and feet and put on a crash helmet with big bubble eyes, which made him look like a huge bug. When he drifted out to the center of the workshop and start­ed flapping his paddles, he actually started moving, although very slow­ly, demonstrating that air is a medium just like water in zero gravity, and you can move around in it—if you the have the right kind of tools and the patience. While Bill was really putting out the energy flapping around, Ed and I got a good laugh.”

The crew was also hitting their stride in terms of the experiments they were performing. They all became much more proficient at Earth observa­tions as the mission continued not only because of the time on orbit but also because of the extra training and emphasis they had put on it.

Ed Gibson recalled, “When we first got up there, we would say, ‘I guess we’re over Africa because it looks like the coastal outline ofAfrica. But after a while we could just look at a little patch of our planet and say, ‘There’s a red windswept desert. We must be over north Africa.’ or, ‘There’s an ocean current, and we can tell by its color and the way it’s meandering that it’s the Falkland current right off the east coast of South America,’ or, ‘There’s a lit­tle round patch of clear ocean surrounded by a ring of clouds. That’s where cold water is welling up and quenching cloud formation. Fishing must be good down there.’

“Whenever I had the chance, I would study and photograph my home­town of Buffalo. In December and January, it displayed its standard winter color: white. No matter which way the wind blew in from Canada, it picked up moisture over Lake Erie or Lake Ontario, then, when it hit the cold land, it all dumped out as snow onto Buffalo. However, the sight of it still warmed my heart. The people are great and ultimately responsible for what I’d done in life including flying over them 270 miles up (go bills!).”

“The diametrically opposite corner of the United States, southern Cali­fornia, received considerable attention from all three of us primarily because of the interest of Lee Silver at Caltech in the multitude of crisscrossing fault zones there,” said Pogue. “From our data he discovered a fault that propa­gated through the airfield at Palmdale, which was the construction site of the Space Shuttles. Fortunately, it has remained inactive. The San Andreas fault and others of less prominence could clearly be seen by eye.”

“On the other side of the Pacific plate,” said Gibson, “the Alpine fault looked like someone had scribed a long, deep, straight line from head to toe on South Island, New Zealand. It was boldly visible, especially at low sun angles.”

“I found weather observations equally interesting,” said Gibson. “One night I watched an extensive series of thunderstorms over the Andes. It was clear that the flashes came in groups as if one flash set off others perhaps through electromagnetic triggers transmitted through the ionosphere. A charge would build up, then ripple fire across the total system, not just at one location. At the time it all seemed so obvious and natural. It was enjoy­able to see and acquire an instinctive feel for some of the natural forces on the Earth. However, since then the results have been difficult to reproduce with instrument observations.”

With the longer duration of the third Skylab mission came more oppor­tunities for its crew to venture outside. When the Skylab design was in the requirements phase, the only way an eva capability could be justified was by the film installation and retrieval to service the atm experiments. It became a classic case—in space—of “If you build it, they will come.” The first of the mission’s four evas took place on Mission Day 7, better known on Earth as Thanksgiving Day. On this eva, as well as all the remaining ones, consid­erably less than 50 percent of the crew’s time was spent on the installation and retrieval of film. The rest of the time was spent on repairs and deploy­ment of other experiments.

Pogue was feeling much better after his initial bout of space sickness by the time he performed the first eva with Gibson. They installed atm film, repaired the microwave antenna, placed an experiment on the atm truss, and took pictures during the six-and-a-half hour eva.

evas were savored by each one of the Skylab crewmen.

“evas were good hard work that always left a feeling of accomplishment,” Ed Gibson said, “as well as some stimulating and lasting visual images. Our training at the neutral-buoyancy tank at Marshall was excellent. Working in the water was always a bit more difficult because of the water resistance and the fact that you could never get weighted out perfectly, which left forc­es and torques on your body that didn’t exist in space. If you could do it in the tank, you could do it in space.

“Over the years I spent a lot of time at Marshall, not only in training but also in the development of procedures and hardware. In fact the first time

Skylab Science Demonstrations

40. The third crew performed a total of four spacewalks during their eighty-four-day stay on Skylab.

Bill and I went out the airlock hatch, part of me expected to see the eyes of safety divers magnified behind their masks ready to assist and big bubbles streaming past my helmet then breaking up, flattening into mushrooms, and turning to white spray at the surface. Instead, it was all clear, no div­ers, no bubbles. Nothing was outside the hatch but our space station and the Earth 270 miles below.

“Three times I went out that hatch into the ‘truly great outdoors.’ When I was out there, it was a silent world, except for the whispers of my own breath. Sometimes I felt totally alone, like the world below didn’t even know I was there. But then I thought of the many people on consoles in Mission Con­trol who monitored everything on the station, including my every breath, word, and heartbeat, and I realized that I was being fully supported in the most extensive way possible.”

Jerry Carr described the spacewalk: “On the first eva, Bill and Ed went out and did a lot of repair work. We had a microwave antenna on the side of the spacecraft that faced the Earth that needed some diagnostics and repair. Unfortunately there were no handrails or foot restraints on that side; so when we trained for it in the neutral-buoyancy tank, we had to figure out how we were going to get it done.

“Basically, we found a place on a truss where we could fasten foot restraints. Bill got into these restraints and held on to Ed’s feet while he reached up and made the fix to the microwave antenna. It was ad hoc, very difficult, but it worked.”

Ed Gibson said, “Removing the cover from the microwave antenna elec­tronics box turned out to be exceptionally difficult. On one side of the box, four screws had to be removed. On the ground it was easy. But in flight because the real box had a metal lip that closely overhung the screws, it was anything but easy. The small screwdriver that fit the small screws had to be inserted into the slots from the side of the screw heads rather from than the top, which was extremely difficult in our large bulky eva gloves.

“Bill and I both gave it a shot. I remember thinking on my last try, ‘Our success here is limited only by something physical. We’re just not going back in until this little hummer is fixed!’ After the better part of an hour, we got the top removed and the work done. It felt good to achieve something diffi­cult, even though most of my fingernails had turned purple from the intense and prolonged squeezing of the screwdriver.

“To get to the antenna electronics box, many layers of aluminized Mylar insulation had to be cut away with a scissors. Most of these highly reflective pieces floated free and were blown away from Skylab by the gases venting from our suits. It happened at sunset so that the red light of the setting sun reflected off these tumbling reflectors in the distance. We commented on the cloud of red flashing lights that appeared to be following us. One of the tabloids picked up on what we saw and of course did not give the real expla­nation. Clearly, we were not chased by flashing red UFOs guided by extra­terrestrial intelligence.”

The new holiday eva tradition continued on Christmas Day. It was the first time a NASA astronaut had been in space on that day since the Apollo 8 crew was on their way back from the moon five years earlier. (Just a week earlier, another first had been marked—the 18 December launch of Soyuz 13 meant that for the first time, U. S. astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts were in space at the same time.) Among the tasks Carr and Pogue performed during the second eva was to take pictures of Comet Kohoutek.

“evas were spectacular,” Carr said. “The second eva was on Christmas Day, and Bill and I were out for seven hours. I was amazed when I got back in because I expected that I’d have to go to the bathroom something fierce,

but I didn’t. Apparently, I had gotten rid of a lot of fluids in the form of sweat through my pores. When I got back in, I was really sweaty, but I real­ly didn’t have to urinate. I was just amazed that, after seven hours, I wasn’t pretty interested in streaking to the urinal.”

“On Christmas of 1973,” Bill Pogue said, “Jerry and I were suited up for an eva to do routine servicing of the solar observatory (removing and replac­ing film magazines). I was to also set up a camera to take imagery of Com­et Kohoutek, and Jerry was to repair one of the solar telescopes using proce­dures developed by ground personnel. Jerry and I got into the Skylab airlock surrounded by two seventy-five-pound film magazines, a special camera for taking pictures of the comet, and tools for Jerry’s repair job.

“We closed the airlock hatches that sealed us off from the rest of Skylab and dumped the pressure from the airlock. When the pressure dropped our suits began to inflate and stiffen just as we expected. At this point I was curi­ous to see how our inflated suits and all the hardware were going to fit in the confined space of the airlock. It turned out to be no problem.

“When the airlock pressure dropped to a vacuum, we opened the hatch and began the first task. Jerry went hand over hand out to the end of the solar observatory while I got the replacement film magazines ready. I operat­ed an extendable boom to transfer the first film canister to Jerry; he removed it and loaded the exposed canister to the boom; I retracted the boom while Jerry loaded the fresh canister to replace the one he had just removed, and when he gave me the ок, I sent the second canister out, we repeated the pro­cedure and were finished in record time.

“I went into the airlock, grabbed the comet camera, and left the airlock as Jerry was returning for his tools. Everything was going like clockwork. I mounted the comet camera on a round Skylab strut and positioned it so that one of the solar arrays just blocked the sun. I couldn’t see the comet but ground had sent me a diagram by teleprinter. The instructions were clear, and it was a fairly easy job. I turned on the camera, and I was finished.

“Because this was my last eva, I decided to make the most of it. I crawled all over the accessible parts of Skylab. It reminded me of when I was a kid doing a mud crawl in a four-foot-deep stock tank used for watering cows and horses. The animals didn’t appreciate it, but very few people had swim­ming pools at that time, and the stock tank was one way to get cool during hot Oklahoma summers.

“My adventurous foray over Skylab ended with me at the sun end of the solar observatory. I was positioned where Jerry had been earlier and the view was breathtaking. When I leaned my head way back I could see the Earth below with no intervening structure in my line of sight. As others had described to me, I had the feeling I was doing a slow swan dive through space. My euphoria was suddenly dashed by comments from Ed who was holding down the fort inside. After I listened to Ed describe the problem that now occupied Mission Control, he asked where I was. I said, ‘The sun end of the atm.’ I quickly deduced that I had stayed too long at that loca­tion and got moving.

“On Skylab we had three large gyroscopes to maintain attitude control. It was obviously important to keep the telescopes pointed toward the sun during solar observations, and the gyros did a great job. Unfortunately one gyro had failed while Ed and I were out on our first eva (Thanksgiving of :i973). Theoretically the remaining two gyros were supposed to be adequate, but in fact we frequently had to perform a special procedure to keep them working properly.

“I was really embarrassed. I had unintentionally caused the current prob­lem, and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out. Our suits were fed oxygen from inside Skylab, and there was no recycling of the air. It auto­matically fed in near the back of my head, flowed down across my face, and then escaped out the front of the suit near my waist. The outward airflow had acted like a small thruster, like letting the air out of a balloon. Although the force from the escaping air was small, my position at the sun end of the atm magnified the thrusting effect because I was about thirty feet from the centerline of Skylab. In other words this lever arm was giving the force of the escaping air a lot of leverage. The airflow from my suit was rotating a one-hundred-ton space station!

“Jerry called asking for help, and I was more than happy to accommodate him. He couldn’t reach a critical location, so I got into his work position and held his legs under my arms to extend his reach. It took a while but Jerry finally finished, we tidied up everything, I retrieved the comet camera, and we ended the eva. When we got back inside, Capcom informed us that we had set a new eva record of just over seven hours. What a blast!”

“That evening after the eva,” said Carr, “we did a TV presentation for the people on the ground. The three of us observed what it was like to be up there, what we saw on the ground, and how we felt about it. We had built a Christmas tree out of a bunch of food can liners from our kitchen and

fashioned them into what looked like a little aluminum cedar tree. Then we had taken several kinds of decals, orange and red and green decals, and stuck them on the tree for decoration. Lastly in honor of Comet Kohoutek, we made a silver foil star with a tail and put it on the top. That was our Christmas tree.”

Four days later Carr and Gibson each made their second eva, taking more comet pictures. They also obtained a sample of the Airlock Module’s micro­meteoroid cover, which was to be studied to learn more about the effects of space exposure.

“In terms of brilliance, Comet Kohoutek was a disappointment,” Carr said. “We and everybody on the ground thought that it was going to be a beautiful, brilliant comet. It turned out to be beautiful all right, but it was so faint that we really had to work to find it. Once we did find it, we observed a gorgeous thing: small, faint, but gorgeous! Although we took as many pictures as we could, I don’t think our film was sensitive enough to really record good data. I believe the only decent picture taken was with the cor- onagraph on the atm. The people on the ground got better pictures of the comet than we did.”

Though the pictures were disappointing, their observations weren’t a complete waste. “In order to best describe what we saw, we made draw­ings,” Carr said. “Ed was the point man on that. With Bill and I looking over his shoulder, he made the drawings and then did a TV report showing the drawings and describing the colors that we saw. There was a little beak on the front end of the comet, which he described as well as [giving] its sig­nificance. These pictures are now in the Smithsonian Air and Space Muse­um in Washington DC. The comet’s low brightness was a disappointment, but it was exciting to look for and find it. We also set up experiments out­side to try to capture it after we went back inside. We then brought them in on a subsequent eva.”

The crew’s fourth and final eva, on 3 February 1973, was once more per­formed by Carr and Gibson. It was the last to take place on Skylab and its purpose reflected that finality. They were to gather everything outside that was going to go back to Earth, including the last of the atm film and also try out a much simpler equipment transfer device than the extendable boom used on all other Skylab evas.

“On our last eva,” Ed Gibson recalled, “Jerry and I tried out the clothes­line that had been proposed as another way to send the large atm film packs

Skylab Science Demonstrations

4i. To supplement the disappointing atm imagery of Kohoutek, the crew made sketches from their own observations.

back and forth between the airlock and the sun end of the atm. An image sprang to mind of the clothesline [being] outside the station holding the wet towels that we had employed unsuccessfully to clean up the water in the [Lower Equipment Bay] of the Command Module, an image of ‘wash day on Skylab’ that we quickly censored and got back to work.”

“The clothesline could not have been more simple: a closed loop of rope sliding over two polished cylinders attached to hooks on each end of the line and two hooks about two feet apart clipped to the rope. Aside from some oscillations of the objects being transported, which we easily controlled, it functioned well.

“However, after the clothesline had served its purpose, it was left up and led to some congestion in the workstation at the airlock, which caused me a

problem. In subsequent work there, the rope got entangled with the umbil­ical connection to my suit and actually disconnected it. I could not feel it happening because the suit, once inflated, is a good insulator from all sub­tle contacts with the outside world. My secondary oxygen pack had picked up the task of keeping my suit inflated, but the fluid line leading to my liq­uid cooled garment was hosing out a water-glycol solution into the vacuum where it immediately turned to yellow ice. Once alerted by the ice foun­tain in front of me, I immediately remade the connection and everything returned to normal, except for the heart rate of the controller in Houston monitoring my suit.”

Skylab ill served as a bridge between two eras of evas. Not only did the crew perform the last eva of the Apollo era and the last using a Gemini hatch, they also paved the way for future evas of the Shuttle era. Though it was not used outside, the third crew, like the second, tested an early version of what would become the Manned Maneuvering Unit (mmu). In 1984 the backpack would allow astronauts to perform evas floating untethered in space, essentially its users became self-contained human satellites orbiting the Earth.

“The mmu was a lot of fun,” Bill Pogue recalled. “We flew it both shirt­sleeved and suited. Towards the end of our flight, we were running low on nitrogen gas that was used as the propellant, which meant that this had to be our last run. It got a little tense and exciting on Jerry’s last suited run. I was observing and taking pictures. We didn’t have any kind of remote radios or other types of communication with each other. But I could see the gauge on Jerry’s oxygen bottle on his right leg, and it was running low. I kept point­ing to it, and he kept gesturing that he wanted to finish.

“He kept going, finally got real close to finishing, but was getting red in the face. I slammed him down, pulled the release on his helmet, and popped it off. He was really sucking air but determined that he was going to finish, which I think he probably did. I was sweating bullets too because it looked like he was in C02 saturation. Actually, it was no big problem because at any time I could pop his helmet. I was just mother-henning him to death while he was sweating and puffing.”

Medical experiments and observations took an increasing priority for the crew that would set a new world space endurance record.

“The bicycle ergometer was a great exercise tool as well as a good experi­ment,” Ed Gibson said. “Especially early in the mission, it was a relief to have

Skylab Science Demonstrations

42. Carr pilots the maneuvering unit inside Skylab.

the blood pulled down into our legs to support our exercise, which relieved some of the fullness in our heads caused by the zero gravity and resulting upward fluid shift.

“Once I got pretty cranked up and developed a good sweat, a consider­able amount of water clung to my back in a sheet and oscillated like Jello as I peddled. If a towel was not available, the shake-like-a-dog procedure usu­ally worked. In zero gravity we couldn’t use the seat on the bike, the straps to hold us in place caused too much chafing, and my arms got tired of holding me stable at high workloads for forty-five minutes. Instead I used my head. I taped a folded towel on the ceiling and put the top of my head against it to stabilize my body while I peddled. It worked!

“We also had something onboard that the previous crews did not, a device called ‘Thornton’s Revenge,’ named in honor of Bill Thornton, the astro­naut-physician who had a knack of doing highly beneficial things in clever and simple ways. Previous crews reported that they could have used some form of exercise that maintained the strength in their leg muscles that they used for walking and running upon return to Earth.

“Bill again came to the rescue with a poor man’s treadmill. It consist­ed of a thin sheet of Teflon about a foot wide and three feet long and bun­gee cords that went over our shoulders to hold us down against the Teflon with a force equal to approximately our own weight. With only stocking feet against the Teflon, we could simulate walking or running by forcing our feet to slide over the Teflon one after the other, or we could just bounce up and down.

“Use of this exercise equipment was one of the few times I ever worried about what and when I ate before exercise. Eating some fire-hot chili before exercise is bad enough on Earth, but in zero gravity it’s doubly bad, a real kill­er. That’s because without gravity it bounces against the top of your stom­ach as well. Mixing chili and a treadmill aside, it was enjoyable exercise and definitely helped maintain leg strength. Thanks, Bill!

“Because of the extra requirements placed on the food system by the min­eral balance experiment, this system was as much of a medical experiment as it was a crew habitability system. Despite having to do double duty, we found the food to be great. Many people picture tough astronauts in space surviv­ing on food from squeeze tubes. That’s the wrong image. Try the image of filet mignon, lobster Newburg, and strawberry sundaes.”

“Our crew also broke new ground in the annals of spaceflight with the first full set of condiments in space,” said Bill Pogue. “Rita Rapp developed them for the second crew after Pete had really railed about the ‘yucky’ bland taste of their food. Imagine, they had no condiments! The second crew took up only regular salt and pepper. But we had deluxe treatment: liquid salt, liquid pepper, hot sauce, horseradish, and garlic! Life couldn’t get any bet­ter than that.”

Between luxuriously seasoned meals, work continued. Ed Gibson recalled: “We also performed an experiment to nail down previous crews’ observa­tions. Light flashes had been observed by dark-adapted crewpersons when outside the van Allen radiation belts [lunar flights] and in Earth orbit when going through the South Atlantic Anomaly (saa) where the inner radia­tion belt dips down lower than at all other locations around the globe. Even though a rough correspondence between the occurrence of the light flashes and presence in the saa was observed on the two previous Skylab missions, no exact correlation had been made. Bill Pogue was selected and enthusias­tically performed this arduous experiment.

“His task was to float in his sleep compartment wearing a blindfold and speak into a tape recorder every time he observed a flash. When the frequen­cy of flashes was plotted against Skylab’s position in orbit, a well-defined bell shaped curve resulted that was centered exactly over the saa. Jerry and I praised Bill for his Herculean effort in the name of science.

“After a few weeks into the mission, something happened that made me think Skylab had a heart. I was looking out the wardroom window watch­ing the spider web of lights blanketing the U. S. slide underneath while I held onto a handhold with the fingertips of one hand. Then I felt it—the station had a pulse, a heartbeat. I felt a beat just as real as a pulse in any­one’s wrist!

“Of course I understood the absurdity of my observation, but it took me a few seconds to realize that I was really feeling the surges of blood through my own arteries and the accompanying deflection of my arm and fingers. Normally, on Earth these forces are unnoticeable because they are swamped by gravity forces. We really did live in a world of fingertip forces.

“By the time the third mission rolled around, Goddard Space Flight Cen­ter had gotten pretty accurate at pointing lasers at Skylab. Using lasers of only a few watts, they provided a point light source of various colors that we could track by eye from right over gsfc to almost one thousand miles out to sea. We thought it amazing at the time, and we still do.”

Especially on the last of Skylab’s three missions, cleanliness became a big­ger challenge than ever. “As on Earth,” Bill Pogue said, “a lot of trash accu­mulated during the day including food packaging, tissues, wet wipes, dirty towels, and washcloths. Most of this trash was immediately shoved through a push-through slot into a waste container. However, bits of skin, finger­nails, hair, food crumbs, odd pieces of paper, and the like tended to drift around and eventually were sucked up against the air filter screens—our lost and found department. We used vacuum cleaners to clean off these screens, which took care of most of the problem.

“The worst mess was in the area where we ate. Small drops of liquid from our drinks and crumbs from our food would float around until they stuck on the wall or in the open grid ceiling above our food table. This grid and the area above it became quite dirty after three missions. Although we could see into this ceiling area, we couldn’t get our hands in to wipe it clean, so it became progressively worse throughout the missions. Near the end of the flight, it began to look like the bottom of a birdcage. I just stopped look­ing at it.

“Every two weeks we wiped down the walls and surfaces of the toilet with a biocide [disinfectant] to prevent a buildup of microorganisms such as germs or mold. Periodic cleaning of this type will be required for the Internation­al Space Station to prevent a gradual buildup of biologically active contam­ination. It will be a time-consuming procedure but essential to preserve a healthy environment for the crew.”

Like the other crews, Skylab ill crew used the shower onboard. “Although we found that a washcloth, soap, and water followed up with a towel were perfectly good for maintaining satisfactory hygiene in zero gravity, we also tried out the shower that Bill Schneider, our Skylab program director, had worked so hard to get onboard,” Gibson recalled. “He and others deserved that we each give it a fair try and evaluation.

“Granted it took a lot of time to set up and tear down, but I found it both interesting and refreshing. Because of its limited hot-water supply, it was like taking a shower with a Windex bottle. A smidgen of hot water was used to get wet and soaped up; the remaining smidgen was used to try to rinse off. The little hand vacuum, which was supposed to be used to remove the liquid, was awkward and difficult to use to reach all body parts. So I tried shaking like a dog, which sprayed most of the liquid to the inside surface of the shower enclosure, and then using the vacuum to clean it all up.

“I concluded that the whole procedure had to be made simpler and fast­er, analogous to passing through a car wash in two or three minutes if we are to have a shower on future stations. Nonetheless, we were appreciative that it was onboard and we had a chance to use it.”

Several challenges to the crew grew progressively more severe as the last of the three missions progressed because of the gradual decline in the station’s condition. Maintenance and repairs had been a part of the crew’s duties even before the first crew ever docked, and there were always concerns about the potential effects of further failures.

“Below the hydrogen tank in the third stage of our Saturn v, our pressur­ized habitable volume,” Bill Pogue said, “was the liquid oxygen tank or lox tank, which was about the volume of a one-car garage [2,500 cubic feet] and served as the Skylab trash dump site or dumpster. Without it life onboard Skylab would have been altogether different, just as life in our homes on Earth would be different if we had to keep our trash inside, had no garage, and our trash pickup stopped. There was the constant threat that we would lose access to our dumpster, and our habitable volume would gradually fill up with our trash, which included biodegradable garbage and waste [food residue and urine bags].

“Our access to our dumpster was through an airlock, the Trash Airlock. We compacted our garbage as much as possible, placed it in a special bag, put it into the TAL, closed the lid, opened the TAL to the vacuum of the lox tank, shoved the bag out and into the tank, and then repressurized the TAL to the pressure of our habitable volume for the next use.

“The lid on the TAL began to cause difficulties on the second mission. The hatch became more and more difficult to latch in the closed position. On our mission, the problem became more severe, and we were desperate to keep the tal working.

“We finally worked out a system whereby J erry would load the trash bag in the bin of the Trash Airlock, and I would float above holding onto the ceiling. As he pulled the lever to lock the hatch closed, I would push myself down sharply and stomp on the hatch lid while Jerry closed the locking lever.


“Was it a barnyard procedure? You bet, but it worked!”

Throughout their eighty-four days without gravity, the crew observed and thought about their reactions to this new mode of living. “Do we sense—or even need—up or down without gravity?” Ed Gibson recalled. “Early in our mission, our new world of zero gravity became familiar, then just plain comfortable. From many hours in a water tank, viewing films of previ­ous crews, and actual zero gravity experienced for short times in aircraft, I came to picture a large switch on my forehead with two positions: one-G and zero-G. It got automatically thrown at booster engine cutoff from the first to the second position.

“Of course there was a lot to learn about the techniques of working with­out gravity, but zero gravity seemed familiar even on the first day. The hard­er we worked, the more efficient and confident we became. We soon real­ized at the gut level that space and its zero gravity is not foreign, not hostile. Rather it became just as friendly as gravity on Earth once we adapted. I do not know why I adapted so quickly and relatively painlessly. I was just lucky. I have always been able to visualize and think in three dimensions. Thus, as soon as we entered Skylab, I felt that my life had taken on another dimen­sion, literally. No longer was there an up or down, except for visual referenc­es on panels or faces, but all dimensions became equal. Every motion was across, regardless of its direction inside or outside of Skylab.

“Yet my physiological responses did not forget gravity entirely. Some engi­neers came up with an ‘experiment’ for us to try out at our leisure. It was the ‘Dynamical Acceleration Reference Trajectory Studies (darts).’ When we tried out these Velcro-tipped darts, we were in for a surprise. Without concentration, a thrown dart would fly twenty to forty degrees up relative to the thrower, and far off the intended target. We lob things down here when we throw them to counteract gravity. Up there lobbing is not use­ful. Only by ‘pushing’ the dart out and away from my body was I able to achieve some accuracy. I tried to imagine what it would be like if I grew up in zero gravity, then came down to Earth and tried to gently throw some­thing. In this case, gravity would be viewed as the exception, not the rule, and a real inconvenience.

“A related series of observations were made by the Skylab II guys who experimented with fish. Normally they swam with their bellies towards a surface or their backs toward a light. But when they were excited, they swam in what aviators call outside loops. However, when their offspring were born, they considered three dimensions natural and didn’t favor one over anoth­er; that is, no up or down was recognized or needed. I felt a bit like them. But will it really be so easy to shed millions of years of human evolution by stepping down one generation that has never experienced gravity?

“Pete’s and Al’s guys made the most of the third dimension when it became available to them especially when they set up their own version of the Indy 500, streaking around the dome lockers. But by the time we got up to Sky­lab, the Control Moment Gyros were showing signs of real wear. Eventual­ly one died and a second one was pulling back the covers on its deathbed.

Thus, running around the dome lockers was verboten because of the stress it put on the cmgs.

“We had to find other ways to enjoy zero gravity. I found that if I lay on my back on the grid floor of the ows and used my wrists only to put some rotation and just a little translation into my body, I could go into a tuck posi­tion and spin exceptionally long times before I clanged into a wall. After reviewing the video, I asked Jannet, my oldest daughter, who was a diver at the time, if she could match one of my feats—it turned out to be a ten and one-half gainer in tuck position followed by a two and one-half forward in pike position.

“This tumbling exercise and the many others carried out by all Skylab crewmen illustrate the insensitivity to gross stimulation of the body’s ves­tibular apparatus (semicircular canals) that developed in zero gravity. In my tumbles, I would develop severe nystagmus, or twitching of the eyes, as my eyes tried to catch up with the fluid racing through my semicircular canals, but none of it ever coupled into the gut to create nausea. I just passively spun and then watched the world flicker by for ten to twenty seconds.”

The sensation of height proved to be inconsistent and elusive to Gibson: “There were a few exceptions in my ability to think of everything as just ‘across.’ One day after looking out a window in the mda for almost fifteen minutes to watch the new and interesting features that never stopped com­ing over the horizon, I glanced back inside. The local vertical on Earth had become aligned with the long open direction from the mda to the bottom of the ows. An instantaneous reaction surfaced: I’m going to fall! After I clutched a handhold, I laughed at myself and realized I hadn’t forgotten gravity completely.

“For several years after our return, every time I looked out a round port­hole in the galley of a commercial airliner, part of me felt I was floating back in Skylab looking out a round porthole in the mda except that from the airliner the horizon was flat and my vision covered half a city, not half a continent.

“Another but stronger feeling of height crept up on me during our space­walks. I have found it difficult to step out the door of an airplane when sky­diving. It was considerably easier to step out of the airlock even though we were 270 miles up. As long as I was close to structure, I still felt a part of it. But it felt different when I moved out and away.

“I have equated it in my mind to going to the top of a tall building and looking out. It’s pleasant, relaxing. But now, what happens if I open the window and walk out to the end of a long springboard where a steel-fisted Hulk Hogan holds me by my ankles—head down. ‘Intellectually,’ I know I’ll never fall. And even though I’m at the same height as I was inside, I’d have to admit. . . it feels a bit different.

“On an eva I had that same feeling, just more of it. Head down, I’d glide over Earth at a very serene five miles a second. And the laws of Sir Isaac Newton gave me full intellectual confidence that I was up there to stay. But when I moved away from the main body of Skylab, like hanging off the sun end of the atm, and looked straight down at Earth 270 miles below, I felt or saw nothing else around me. That’s when that same little guy from lift­off whispered again from nowhere, ‘Suppose that Newton guy was just a little bit wrong?’”

Though the possibility of an extended mission was already being explored well before their launch, officially, the target duration had remained at fif­ty-six days, as it had been for the second crew. By the time that duration was reached, the crew had a “Go” to stay. However, extensions were approved for a week at a time as the ground carefully monitored the status of the space­craft, the crew, and the supplies.

NASA press releases issued at the time give the official view:

Release No.: 74-20

What Goes Up

Подпись: • • •“In April of 1982 I was lucky enough to be assigned the job of NASA senior science representative to Australia — ‘nasa Rep,’ the Aussies called it,” Joe Kerwin said. “So I got on the plane in Houston, and some twenty-two hours and three stops later dragged my weary body into the Canberra air­port terminal.

“My new secretary met me in the official Ford, and we decided to drive to the office before she deposited me at the motel. ‘This is your desk, mate.’ she said—and the phone rang. ‘Hello,’ I yawned, ‘nasa representative.’

“’G’day, mate,’ said a voice. ‘I’ve got a bit of Skylab here and was curi­ous; were you still buying them back?’ Incredible! Not in the country two hours, and Skylab, my triumph and embarrassment, had followed me there like the bottle imp.

“By the way, the chap, from a small town near Perth, didn’t have a bit of Skylab. He had a great chunk of it, an intact oxygen tank about eight feet long and well-charred. We informally certified it for him, but NASA had enough samples and didn’t want this one. As far as I know, it’s still adorning the entrance to his pub. Skylab had returned to Earth, sure enough.”

Although the Skylab program had officially been designed to include only three manned missions, there had been discussions of other possibilities, from reboosting the station to launching the second Skylab workshop. Even NASA’s space-race rivals were intrigued by the possibilities the facility offered. If representatives of the Soviet space program had had their way, a much larger-scale version of what eventually became the Apollo-Soyuz Test Proj­ect would have involved both nations’ space station programs as well.

Marshall’s George Hardy recalled that before the launch of Skylab, James Fletcher, the NASA administrator, met with the head of the Soviet space agen­cy to discuss the possibility of cooperation in the event of an emergency in

spaceflight, among other topics. “So we got an invitation to go to Russia in 1969, and Bob Gilruth was selected to head that delegation, and then my name was on there,” Hardy said. “I got selected to go because nobody really knew what the Russians wanted to talk about, and there was some possibil­ity that maybe they wanted to talk a little about Skylab, although our man­agement was not terribly interested in talking about Skylab.”

The meeting was cordial but unproductive, so it was agreed that a Soviet delegation would come back to the United States the next year for a meet­ing at msc to further discuss rescue mission cooperation. “The discussion had been very general about rescue capability—what would we need: com­mon docking systems and things like that and rendezvous capabilities and all that sort of thing,” he said. “And it was very generic discussion.

“About the third or fourth day, they came in and the head of their dele­gation opened that meeting that day and said, ‘We’d like to make a propos­al,’” Hardy said. “And he just laid out flat a proposal where there’d be two missions: one where Soyuz would come to the Skylab, and one where the Command and Service Module would go to the Salyut.”

Under the plan, the Soviets offered to host the first mission on Salyut, and then their mission would be flown to Skylab, which at that point NASA believed was about a year from launch. While the delegations were in the next session, Gilruth called headquarters, and NASA deputy administrator George Low flew to Houston. “Basically the bottom line was that we didn’t want to have a mission with them with Skylab,” Hardy said. “We didn’t want to complicate Skylab to that extent. We thought it would delay Sky – lab. Turns out Skylab was delayed anyway.”

The NASA delegation returned to the meeting with the Soviets and explained that they didn’t believe it would work out to add such a major new element to the Skylab program. There were already obligations, they explained, to principal investigators that wouldn’t allow for such a substantial change to the program timetable. The Soviet delegation agreed that was understand­able and suggested that the joint mission could be flown the with second Skylab station, which they knew had been constructed. The NASA delega­tion explained that there were neither plans nor funding for the launch of the second Skylab.

Savvy to the U. S. system of allocating budget funds on a year-to-year basis, the Soviet delegation said that they understood that the Congress hadn’t appropriated the Skylab-в funds and that they could wait until that happened. “They were told no, that wouldn’t happen,” Hardy said. No mat­ter how the NASA delegation tried to explain it, he said, the Soviets wouldn’t believe that a space agency would build an entire space station with no intent to fly it.

“They couldn’t believe it,” he said. “And it was almost like—they didn’t say this—but you kind of got the impression they were feeling like, ‘These fellows just don’t want a space station with us.’ There has to be another rea­son, and that’s the reason they would assume.”

With a trip to Skylab off the table, the talks of any sort of joint space sta­tion operation fell apart. “It just wasn’t the time for it. And once that didn’t happen, then the trip to Salyut didn’t happen either, and that’s how we end­ed up with astp,” Hardy said. “We didn’t want to go to a Russian quote, ‘space station,’ and the Russians didn’t want us to come to theirs if they couldn’t come to ours.” Though the talks about the joint space station oper­ation ultimately proved unsuccessful, Hardy said he has many vivid mem­ories of the process.

“My introduction to that, I can remember it well,” George Hardy said, “I got a call from [Marshall deputy director Eberhard] Rees. I was here doing my job, and this was one morning at ten o’ clock or something. He said, ‘Can you be in Dr. Gilruth’s office this afternoon, by three o’clock?’ I said, ‘I guess so, I’ll see. What am I going for?’ He said, ‘Well, they’ll tell you when you get there.’ That was strange. So anyway, I did; I caught a plane. I got down there; I walked in that office and introduced myself, and [the secretary] said, ‘Oh yes, Dr. Gilruth’s expecting you soon. Have you got your tickets for Moscow yet?’ And that was the first time I knew I was going to Moscow.

“I really had a good time with [Gilruth]. We were coming back from that trip over there in ’69. The State Department had briefed us, and things were pretty contentious back in those days between the two countries. One of the things they told us was typical I guess—they told everybody that went over there, don’t lock your suitcase, ’cause they’re going to open it up anyway. Don’t lock it; they’ll break the lock on it. We all tried to adhere to that, but Gilruth evidently forgot it or something. They broke in, bust­ed the lock on it.

“Here we were coming back through Heathrow Airport, and Bob Gilruth had on his cowboy boots and that ten-gallon hat. He was carrying a suit­case that was tied up with a rope around it, and he had a big bag under his arm; he’d bought a fur or something for his wife over there. It looked like Texas walking down through there.

“When they came over here there must have been twenty, thirty, forty, or fifty of them. I know they had a whole wing at the Holiday Inn down there. And they had buses to take them to the Galleria, shopping. They loved to go to the Galleria. They’d buy flashlights and flashlight batteries; that was their favorite thing to take home.”

Hardy said that he has often wondered since then what would have hap­pened if things had worked out differently. “I don’t know what that would have cost,” Hardy said of the Skylab-Salyut proposal. “I don’t know how complicated that would have been. I don’t know what the political payoff of something like that would have been, or the scientific payoff, but that would have been a real joint mission, a real joint mission.”

In fact, he said, depending on how interested the Soviets had been in the program, it might have been possible to work out an arrangement that would have allowed the second Skylab to be flown. Funding issues aside, one of the biggest issues facing a second Skylab program was the limited number of U. S. Saturn launch vehicles and Apollo spacecraft remaining. Supplement­ing those with Soyuz rockets and capsules in a cooperative program, Har­dy noted, could have opened up new possibilities. “For example, you could have used Soyuz preferentially—four of theirs to our last two Command Modules, all sorts of options,” he said, adding, “They just seemed amazed that we built an entire vehicle and wouldn’t fly it.”

Scientist astronaut Phil Chapman was a member of a committee started after Apollo 14 to study space station possibilities. He was part of a group that advocated launching the Skylab-в workshop after modifying it to make it refurbishable. “The modifications to the workshop mostly involved pro­visions for replacing consumables,” Chapman recalled. “I think the most costly change was mounting the cmgs in palettes so they could be replaced when necessary. As I recall the additional cost was about $50 million in 1970 dollars. We could have had a permanent space station in 1975 with more real utility than the iss for a total cost twenty times less. Once that was up and running, our proposal was to build a reusable crew transfer vehicle, launched initially by a Saturn IB, and then to work on a reusable flyback booster.”

Chapman said that the possibilities posed by the Space Shuttle were seen by those in charge as making this proposal unnecessary. He said that NASA’s decision to pursue the Space Shuttle was one of the principal reasons he left the astronaut corps in 1972 rather than waiting for a chance to fly.

Plans for the future utilization of the Skylab hardware were not to be. When the Skylab ill crew closed the hatch as they left, it was to be the end of the operational program. On 9 February 1974, just one day after the return of Jerry Carr’s crew, Mission Control did some final systems testing, maneu­vered Skylab to a gravity gradient attitude (perpendicular to Earth, small end up and workshop end down, an orientation in which it would wobble but remain pretty stable without the need for electrical power or propel­lants) and turned off the power.

Experts at Marshall forecast that Skylab would descend from its end-of – mission altitude (about 235 nautical miles) only very gradually. If nothing were done, drag from the very thin atmosphere at that altitude would inex­orably pull it down, and it was estimated that reentry and burn-up would occur around March 1983. This estimate was based on the average density of the atmosphere at various levels of solar activity. It was known that between 1974 and 1980 solar activity would be increasing, approaching solar maxi­mum —a time when sunspots, flares, and the ejection of solar particles to and beyond the Earth would be more frequent. Increased solar activity heats the upper atmosphere, causing it to expand. The slight increase in density at Skylab’s altitude would increase drag, causing it to descend more quick­ly. All of this was factored in.

But the rise in solar activity during the 1970s was far from average. It was the most active solar cycle ever recorded with modern instruments. And through the years from 1974 to 1978, NASA and noaa differed in their fore­casts. noaa was forecasting higher drag than NASA.

NASA’s plan when Skylab was deactivated was to visit it again when the Space Shuttle was operational, and the first flight had been scheduled for early 1979—plenty of time. A remotely operated system would remove a propulsion module from the orbiter and place it in Skylab’s docking hatch, either to boost it to a high, safe altitude while plans were made to somehow activate it or to deorbit it safely to a remote ocean. Neither component was yet being built because of NASA’s very tight budget.

But as the sun gradually began to move Skylab’s demise earlier, the Shuttle schedule began to move later. An early 1979 launch began to look risky. Sky – lab would have to be visited earlier than the fifth flight, during the so-called test phase of the program, and Shuttle management didn’t want to risk that. Could anything be done to keep Skylab aloft longer? Maybe something could. In February 1977 a team of eight engineers—four from Marshall and four from Johnson—went to Bermuda to try to wake Skylab up. Bermuda was the only NASA ground station that still had command capability using the “old-fashioned” uhf radio band.

As Bill Chubb, at that time leader of the Support Team for Attitude Con­trol at Marshall, explained, “Four years had passed, and we had no idea of the condition of any of the systems nor did we even know if they were com – mandable from the Skylab ground station network. It was critical that we establish communications, interrogate, and activate these systems to facil­itate a controlled reentry.

“In order to evaluate what options were available to us, the state of the onboard systems had to be determined. Ground tracking told us when Sky­lab would be within communication range. Onboard batteries of the power system were most likely fully discharged. Power would be available on the vehicle only when the solar panels were pointing toward the sun. There was no way of knowing if its attitude would be such that the solar panels would be pointed toward the sun during the passes over Bermuda, making pow­er available to the onboard telemetry system. Even with power available we did not know whether it was operable. On March 6, 1978, as Skylab passed within range of the Bermuda Ground Tracking Station, the onboard Sky­lab Airlock Module command and telemetry system was commanded ‘on.’ Numerous ‘on’ commands were sent until at last data from Skylab came into the Bermuda Station. It was a moment none of us would forget!”

Charlie Harlan was appointed by Chris Kraft, director of Johnson, in 1977 to create and head up the Skylab Reentry Flight Control Team. He recalled: “We’d send a command to charge the batteries, but there had to be juice on the bus for it to be received. So those guys just sat out there, sending com­mand after command after command. Eventually one would get through.” With persistence the remaining good batteries were finally recharged, and Skylab was ready to be commanded out of its passive gravity-gradient atti­tude into one that would enable control of drag. What attitudes could the aging control system sustain?

Now that control of Skylab attitude had been reestablished, what was the desired direction in space? The lowest drag would make the station travel like an arrow (end-on) and provide the longest lifetime. But to best control the point of reentry and final destruction, a higher drag and shorter lifetime would be better. During this control period, Associated Press space report­er Howard Benedict (later the executive director of the Astronaut Scholar­ship Foundation for many years) noted that “Jack Lousma, a member of the (second) crew to live aboard the station for fifty-nine days, came by the Con­trol Center and asked if the station could be inhabited again. Chubb said ‘Yes,’ there was enough oxygen and nitrogen for perhaps a ninety-day mis­sion. Lousma noted that there probably was still plenty of asparagus aboard, too—left by past crews.” It was one of their least favorite dishes!

One of the three Control Moment Gyros used to control Skylab’s atti­tude had failed during the third crew’s mission, and another had developed increased bearing temperatures—a possible sign of impending failure. There was very little nitrogen left in the cold gas backup attitude control system. Two cmgs had to be enough to control Skylab and possibly even one. Was this possible?

Charlie Harlan again: “There were some heroes in this story, and maybe the biggest ones were Hans Kennel and his colleague John Glaese at msfc. They came up with what many of us thought was impossible—new control laws for the cmgs to control Skylab even if two of them failed, and new atti­tudes we could use to control drag. They brought in four guys from IBM who had done the original control system. They completely rewrote the software in Skylab’s IBM computer. They wrote over all the code that wasn’t needed like crew displays and controls. We turned their stuff into commands and sent it up. I remember one day we tumbled Skylab doing that. They’d sent us a matrix, and somehow the rows and columns got transposed and we sent up a bunch of garbage. But they caught it right away and we corrected it.”

Since the goal at that time was to stretch Skylab’s lifetime, drag had to be minimized. The attitude invented for that purpose was called “end-on velocity vector (eovv).”

Hans Kennel recalled: “To reduce the orbital decay the attitude control of the Skylab had to be regained and the drag had to be reduced by point­ing the long vehicle axis along the orbital velocity vector. Leading up to reinstatement of active control of Skylab and activation of eovv was the discussion about the health of one of the two remaining functional Con­trol Moment Gyros. It had shown signs toward the end of the original Sky – lab mission similar to the one that failed, and many thought failure of this second cmg was imminent.

“That would have left one cmg remaining, whereas Skylab needed two good cmgs for control. We were told the reactivation mission was ‘off’ unless we could come up with a single cmg backup for eovv. Along with the oth­er things described, we had to develop such a thing and we did. It would have been a ‘hairy’ operation, but it looked like it would work. On the basis of that, the go-ahead was given, and we even adapted the same momentum management methodology developed for single cmg control for use with the two functional cmgs.

“As a side note it was learned after the reactivation phase that the ailing cmg worked better if it was exposed to the sun and not in shadow for extend­ed periods and so we developed maneuver plans for flipping the vehicle from orbital workshop and habitation module forward to Apollo Telescope Mount forward, depending on which end was more favorable for heating the ail­ing cmg. From that point on it never again showed signs of problems and worked all throughout the remainder of eovv and tea [Torque Equilibri­um Attitude]. We developed the necessary control methods, built a simu­lation to verify the operation, including what kind of data the ground con­trollers would see, and with the help of IBM the necessary algorithms were implemented on the onboard computer.

“All this was done in record time (we were made aware of the problem on 20 March 1978, IBM got the necessary equations for the onboard com­puter on 26 April 1978, and eovv attitude was successfully entered 11 June 1978). And it worked very well reducing the orbital decay. This fast response was only possible because we were fluent in apl (a high level computer lan­guage); we had all the necessary simulation components due to previous experience; practically all red tape was cut; and the official documentation was done much later.”

The low drag attitude was expected to increase Skylab’s lifetime by about five months, into 1980. But early in 1978, the risk of a Skylab reentry was abrupt­ly dramatized by the Soviet space program. A Soviet spacecraft, Cosmos 954, entered the atmosphere and broke up over northern Canada, spreading nearly a hundred pounds of nuclear fuel over a broad swath of forest. Crit­ics began to question NASA’s plans. NASA assured the public that Skylab con­tained no radioactive material.

There was talk of extending Skylab’s life by moving it into a higher orbit. Engineers looked at the possibility of launching a booster that could be attached to Skylab. The Space Shuttle, it appeared, was the best answer. Launch on an unmanned rocket would mean figuring out how to auto­mate the reboosting. With the Shuttle, the crews could carry the booster to Skylab and attach it.

However, the same program that offered hope for Skylab’s salvation also brought that hope to an end. The first spaceworthy orbiter, Columbia, was plagued during testing with the loss of insulating ceramic tiles as well as trouble with its engines. A better system for applying the tiles was needed, and the first launch attempt slipped to 1981. Skylab was going to reenter.

The control team now knew what it had to do and prepared a plan for review by NASA headquarters. First they looked at how Skylab’s orbit varied as it moved around the Earth. Some orbits passed over many densely popu­lated land areas; others spent most of the time over water and desert. Using a population-density map prepared by the Department of Defense, they esti­mated the population under Skylab’s path for each orbit.

The next step was to forecast how Skylab might break up, how much of its bulk would survive reentry and hit Earth’s surface, and over what area. An analysis had been prepared by NASA before Skylab’s launch and was used. The end-of-mission Skylab weighed about 173,000 pounds, and about 50,000 pounds of that was expected to survive reentry.

Putting the two analyses together, NASA estimated that there was an aver­age chance of one in 152 that someone might be struck by debris. But on the very best orbits, it was much less than a tenth of that. These were the orbits that passed over southern Canada, then swept southeast over the Atlantic, skimmed just south of the tip of Africa, up the Pacific and Indian oceans to cross Australia, then across the Coral Sea and Pacific Ocean until reach­ing North America again. If reentry could be contrived to happen east of North America and west of Australia on one of these orbits, Skylab could be safely disposed of.

So the plan was to put Skylab back into its old standard solar inertial, high-

drag attitude, then carefully track what effect that drag was having on its altitude and reentry point. As altitude decreased and drag increased, it would be impossible to maintain solar inertial; asymmetric drag would twist Sky – lab out of control. No problem; the unflappable Hans Kennel and his team had invented torque equilibrium altitude, a variation that perfectly balanced all the forces. Nominally the point of no return would be reached at seven­ty-five miles altitude. At that altitude, controllers would command Skylab to turn off its cmgs; it would immediately tumble. The known, lower drag of the tumbling configuration would result in a known entry location. And by varying the altitude at tumble time, the team believed it could stretch or shorten reentry to place it on one of the five “good” orbits for that day.

Charlie Harlan recalled, “Another hero was Richard Brown, a Rockwell contractor engineer. He figured out how much power we’d need to per­form each maneuver and what attitudes would achieve it. Since our pow­er margins were very small, we’d call Richard in whenever we were plan­ning an attitude change.” Headquarters agonized over the plan. There was a faction that didn’t want to give the public the impression that NASA was in full control; if the scheme backfired, there would be much blame. “This was the ‘God’ faction—they basically didn’t want to do anything,” Harlan said, “so they could blame it on God. But I’m a Deist. I believe God put us on Earth with certain capabilities, and expects us to do our best. My team and I were ready, and pretty optimistic.”

Finally, the call came from headquarters. John Yardley, acting as liaison between Johnson and the administrator, approved the plan. Harlan recalled telling Chris Kraft this and Chris saying, “Charlie, you got your answer. Hang up the phone and don’t answer it again.”

Headquarters had insisted on using predictions of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (norad) regarding reentry rather than nasa’s, “so that there would be one official source.” The NASA team was pretty sure their prediction was better, because they had a better knowledge of vehicle configuration and drag. And in June the NASA prediction was running about two days earlier than the norad one. “We knew the predictions would con­verge as we got close,” Harlan said. “But the media really wanted to be here for the big event, so we told them unofficially, ‘If you don’t want to miss it, get set up a couple of days early.’”

But before the final demise of Skylab, the general public had lots of advice

for NASA. Headlines in the 5 June 1979 edition of the Huntsville Times reported that “nasa Chief [Robert Frosch] Is Chided for Skylab’s Fall.” When asked where he would be at the time of Skylab’s return, Frosch said that “if not at NASA Headquarters, he would probably be at a bbq in his backyard.” Congressman Robert Walker, R, Pennsylvania, was “somewhat incredu­lous” that nobody had given any thought at all to tell the public what to do. NASA general counsel Neil Hosenball said, “Our people are the last in the world to know what to say or how to do it [alert the public].”

Other more specific advice came from the public: “Fill a robot plane with TNT and crash into it.” Or “shoot a missile at it.” All these many letters were sent to William O’Donnell, nasa’s director of public information, who said they were all answered. One of those giving him “most pause to compose” suggested having “the astronauts attach balloons (filled with helium) so it will float into outer space.”

A New York restaurant invited people to partake of Skylab cocktails — “two of these and you won’t know what hit you.” A large baseball mitt was erect­ed at Cape Canaveral to catch the station. Another radio station (kmbz, in Kansas) offered $9,800 for a piece of the station. Beanie hats with propel­lers and T-shirts were sold in San Francisco with a large “x” imprinted say­ing, “Hit me.” (There were jokes that shirts like this would keep the wear­er safe—there was no way the government could actually hit anything it aimed for.)

A psychic from California somehow got Harlan’s home phone number. “She called me several times with predictions. I’d say, ‘How do you know that?’ And she’d say, ‘Numerology.’ But she predicted impact on Dover, Del­aware, and she never called back afterwards.”

Meanwhile the press was having a field day. Some people in Washing­ton DC, had started a Chicken Little Society. There were bumper stickers (“Chicken Little was Right!” “Good to the Last Drop”), T-shirts, slogans, and contests—a kind of gallows humor. The New York Times chided NASA soberly. Officials in England offered advice: “Being inside a house would protect you from small pieces. . . .”

Garriott recalled: “I was greatly amused and annoyed by what I consid­ered to be a gross overreaction by the press and criticism of NASA. I had an interview request from one of the Houston press about it. I noted that I/we didn’t invite him to drive down into our community. And since he did, he was exposing our children to a greater risk of being hit by his car than we at NASA were exposing his family to by Skylab reentry. That was not too well received and didn’t make it to print. The statistics were simple and required some estimation, but I believe they were true.”

On 9 July headquarters opened the Skylab Coordination Center to keep everyone informed. On the tenth the forecast was made that entry would occur the next day between 7:00 a. m. and 5:00 p. m., Eastern daylight time. On the other side of the world in Australia, headlines warned of the impend­ing reentry. Sydney’s Sun newspaper ran a front-page headline, three lines deep in bold letters two inches tall, “skylab on aust crash course.”

“Skylab is on a crash course that could bring debris down on south­western Australia, American authorities said today,” the article, dated 10 July, read. “But it could still re-enter Earth’s atmosphere on any of 12 final orbits—including some over Sydney. The Western Australia State Emer­gency Service went on full alert this morning. ‘All we’ve heard is rumours,’ ses director Mr D. L. Hill said today.”

Another Sydney paper, the Daily Mirror, announced the same day “sky – lab zero hour near.” Stacked below it was the headline for another arti­cle, informing readers, “But here’s some down-to-Earth good news — $10 a week tax cut plan.”

Harlan and his team stood by to make their last decision. At midnight it appeared that Skylab would reenter on the very best orbit. But the predicted debris “footprint” was immense—nearly four thousand miles long by one hundred wide because the heavier pieces would be less affected by drag and would travel a lot farther. And it looked like the western edge of that foot­print might just overlap the U. S. east coast. So the tumbling command was given early, with Skylab just under eighty miles high, and the impact foot­print moved east as predicted.

But things rarely go exactly as predicted. Skylab’s breakup altitude had been calculated from its design structural strength requirements. The actu­al vehicle was stronger than the specs required. It held together longer than was calculated, breaking up over the Indian Ocean. Most of the debris fell harmlessly into the water, but some chunks fell in western Australia along a line from south to northeast of Perth. (Nine days later, Perth hosted the Miss Universe pageant, and a piece of the fallen spacecraft was on display during the event.) “Thank God—and Charlie’s team—no one was hurt,” Kerwin said.

What Goes Up

47- Johnson Space Center officials and flight controllers monitor the reentry of Skylab.

A ground track of Skylab in its last hour or so of existence on 11 July starts from mid-Canada and moves easterly out into the North Atlantic. It then moves southeast into the South Atlantic, just as planned. It passes south of the Cape of Good Hope and turns northeast across the Indian Ocean toward Australia, beginning to seriously break apart and the lighter pieces to burn up. Some smaller pieces scattered down on tin roofs in Esperance and other nearby cities, but a few of the larger chunks (such as the film vault and the oxygen and nitrogen tanks) presumably carried on overhead into the Outback. Some are doubtless still there, awaiting some adventuresome explorer to find them.

The raining of debris on Australia prompted legal action—the town of Esperance fined the U. S. State Department four hundred dollars for litter­ing. Kerwin recalled that his primary emotion at seeing the end of his one­time home was simply relief that nobody was hurt. “I think we’d seen it com­ing for long enough not to be surprised or regretful,” he said.

In Australia the reentering spacecraft put on a show for those who saw it. The Skylab control center actually got a phone call from the captain of a commercial aircraft flying along Australia’s west coast. It was night, and he excitedly described the multiple streaks of flame blazing through the sky.

That was the clue for the team to turn off their consoles and go home. Air­line pilot Bill Anderson gave an even more useful visual report when he not­ed that he and his passengers saw separate fireballs change from a “bright blue into an orangey-red” as the debris broke up and descended into the lower atmosphere.

A woman in the town of Esperance in southwest Australia was among those on the ground who saw Skylab fall. It seemed like “a shower of spar­kling lights—like a rocket—passed overhead with no sound, until about a half a minute or so, [then] there was this loud boom,” she said.

Once more, giant bold letters graced Sydney’s Sun. Above the headline “skylab hits wa station,” was followed by a distinctly local angle to the story: “The world stood in awe today as Skylab tore itself apart in a spectac­ular display and spattered the Earth of a remote West Australia sheep sta­tion,” the 12 July article begins. “But Noondinia Station manager John Seil­er’s only complaint was: ‘It scared my horses.’”

When Skylab fell, Stan Thornton was a seventeen-year-old truck driver’s assistant living in Esperance, a remote coastal town set in the Bay of Isles, some 440 miles southeast of the capital Perth. He calls his resort hometown “a real paradise.”

That momentous evening in a region known for incredibly clear night skies, Stan traveled with his sister and some friends to a local lookout and watched in fascination as a profusion of bright, colorful man-made mete­ors ripped across the starry heavens, indicating the end of Skylab. The fol­lowing morning his mother Elsie “went out to [their] backyard, which had only been mowed and cleaned the previous day, and found charcoal piec­es spread all over the grass.” After Elsie had told her son about the burnt chunks of debris, he gathered up a few sizeable pieces and went to the local State Emergency Services (ses) office with his friend Ray Rose.

Local ses manager Phil Arlidge contacted a Perth radio station at 6:00 p. m., as he’d heard about a reward on offer for the first person to deliver an authenticated piece of Skylab to a newspaper office in San Francisco with­in seventy-two hours. The radio station was up to the challenge Arlidge’s call presented and confirmed with him that the San Francisco Examiner was indeed prepared to pay a ten-thousand-dollar reward—on the provi­so it reached their office in America within three days. Stan Thornton was about to be involved in the race of a lifetime.

What Goes Up

48. Owen Garriott with an oxygen tank, one of the largest pieces of Skylab debris to be recovered, at the U. S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville al.

Things began to happen in a hurry, according to Stan. “The radio peo­ple were in Esperance with the help of a Swan Brewery Lear Jet within two hours. They had already contacted Qantas to arrange my ticket and pass­port, and the next day I flew out of Perth for the United States. In San Fran­cisco I was greeted at the airport by Qantas manager Gil Whelan, who had arranged a limousine, and I was taken straight to the downtown Examin­er office.”

Stan had delivered the pieces with twenty-four hours to spare and was pre­sented with his bounty. The newspaper’s reporters wanted to know every­thing about him and how he had found the Skylab debris. “There was a press conference at the Examiner office, and after this they locked the piec­es into a briefcase to be sent to NASA,” he recalled. He suddenly found him­self an instant celebrity and will never forget the experience. “For someone who had not been out of Esperance, it was pretty over the top,” he recently reflected. Within a couple of days, Ray Rose and Stan’s family had joined him in San Francisco to celebrate his good fortune. NASA examined the

charred fragments and Stan said they later told him the pieces were “some type of balsa wood from the insulation.”

Recently moving to a new home just south of Perth with his partner Ker­ry and their two children, his famous “dash for cash” still brings back vivid memories for the truck driver/laborer, and despite the passage of time Stan said he still has a degree of friendly notoriety among his family and friends. “The only part of my life that really changed over here,” he reflects with a shy smile, “was the word ‘Skylab’ was placed in front of my name. Even today I am actually still greeted as ‘Skylab.’”

People said a lot of nice things about Harlan and his team after it was over—including a headline in the Toronto Star, “How Charlie saved Cana­da from Skylab!” But the kudos he remembers most fondly came in a splash­down party skit put on by his neighbors. It featured a song called, “A Salute to Charles: He Couldn’t Keep It Up.” An excerpt (to the tune of “The Eyes of Texas Are upon You”):

The parts ofSkylab are upon you

All the live long day

The parts ofSkylab are upon you,

We hope they will decay;

Did you hear the Skylab coming,

Was it a big surprise?

Little ladies in Australia Are saying, “Damn your eyes! ”

Crew Cleared for Another Week in Space

The three Skylab astronauts, now in their 76th day in orbit, today were given a go-aheadfor seven additional days. For the remainder of the mission, weekly evaluations of the hardware, consumables, and crew will be made by nasa offi­cials. The first such weekly review was completed this afternoon. William C. Schneider, Skylab Program Director, said, the crew members “are in good spir­its and excellent physical condition and the spacecraft is in good shape to contin­ue. ” Originally, the three Skylab manned missions were planned, successively, for one of 28days and two of 56days. The first mission lasted 28days, the second was extended to 79 days, and the third was then planned as an open-ended 60-day mission with consumables aboard to provide for as many as 87 days.

Release No.: 74-31