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

Optimum Observer Response

Given the exceptional instrument array and real-time feedback on solar struc­ture and events, it was then up to the flight crew to respond in ways that max­imized the new and important information in the returned data. Thus, the task before flight was to provide the observers with the best possible train­ing. But the training program had a few challenges: the time available was

limited by the approaching launch dates and demands of other mandatory training and by the backgrounds of the observers ranging from test pilots with little science expertise to scientists who had a good understanding of physics and some of solar physics. In the end each crewman had to possess a working knowledge of solar physics and an expertise in performing the atm tasks. The first challenge was a given, and all that could be done was done to carve out as much time as humanly possible. In meeting the sec­ond challenge, each and every potential observer demonstrated the nature and mental disposition to maximize their learning. Some understood that they would be expected to operate the instruments with negligible errors as a highly skilled technician. Others understood that they would be required to be not only highly skilled technicians but to also alter the in-flight oper­ations in real time as their scientific judgment dictated. All nine crewmen who flew responded to the very best of their individual abilities.

Along with the excellent procedures trainer that was provided, a major amount of solar physics classroom instruction was accomplished. “Our class­room trainer was a godsend: Dr. Frank Orrall, a practicing solar physicist and observer, a highly dedicated instructor, and a man of exceptional humor and patience,” Gibson recalled. “His knowledge and enthusiasm left their marks on every one of us. Upon the conclusion of his instruction, he was presented a picture signed by each of the crewmen he instructed. The photo was one of the whole sun that clearly displayed its supergranulation, the large, nearly circular cells that crowd together on the surface. Some of the crewmen who had previously made lunar flights labeled a few of the cells with the names of craters they had studied on the moon—a way to pull Frank’s chain about how much they had learned about the sun. He loved it.”

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

Flexible Observatory Operation

At the beginning of every orbit, the crews had a planned set of observa­tions but also the freedom to deviate if they saw a more information-bear­ing feature or event on the sun’s surface; that is, they approached the obser­vatory operations with an open mind but not an empty one. The planned observations, which were usually sent up from the ground on a teleprinter pad, were organized into Joint Observing Programs that defined how each instrument was to be operated as a particular feature was observed, such as a solar filament, bright point, or active region. They also had a jop to cover the occurrence of a flare, a very time critical and film-consuming set of joint observations. Very useful background data on the solar state was also provided from noaa (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administra­tion) and the Pis. Periodically they also had voice conferences with the Pis, which turned out to be useful but rather stiff because of the many restric­tions on communication with the crew. Fortunately these restrictions have softened since then, and Shuttle crews are now able to discuss joint exper­iment concerns and procedures with ground-bound observers in a less for­mal and restraining way.

The rapid rearrangement of magnetic field structures on the sun often leads to large explosive flares that are accompanied by large coronal mass ejections. Large masses of gas are hurled high into the solar atmosphere some­times with enough energy to escape the sun entirely. Occasionally some of that mass in the form of high-energy particles enters the solar wind and sub­sequently rains down on Earth, causing the northern and southern lights (the aurorae) and major disturbances in electrical distribution grids. The ejection of these masses upward through the corona was dynamic, majestic, and very rewarding if captured in the data from beginning to end. On the third Skylab manned mission, a major cme was recorded from its inception because of a real-time tip from an observatory in Hawaii that saw a large prominence start to lift off. Later in the mission, the largest such event was observed by Skylab. “This liftoff of a major arch of gas, which covered one – eighth of the solar circumference, has become an icon of the Skylab solar observations,” Gibson explained. “Much to our embarrassment, it was all recorded by the ground’s remote operation of our instruments as we float­ed in our sleep.”

The grand prize for any Skylab observer was to record the birth and life of a flare. All the clues on how and why a flare occurs are revealed by the details of its inception. “Our flare warning systems told us when a flare was occurring, but not when and where one was about to occur,” Gibson said. “Also, since the jop for a flare demanded a high burn rate of the limited film housed in most instruments, a shotgun approach was unacceptable; we had to find a way to pick off one with a rifle. The answer lay in patience and close inspection of the most energetic active region as seen in x-rays and the xuv. As the magnetic field structure of an active region became more unstable, one or more bright points would surge and pulsate in intensity. It gave one the impression of a pot of water just starting to boil. The trick was to pick the right bright point, then the right time to call a surge in brightness the early eruption of a flare. This technique practiced on the third mission rewarded us with the capture of a flare rise just as were about to conclude our obser­vations and come back home. It was rewarding yet frustrating—why didn’t we fully develop this technique earlier?”

Though certainly not designed for it, the atm took advantage of a real target of opportunity: Comet Kohoutek. The comet was much fainter than anticipated and certainly very much fainter than the bright solar features that the atm was designed to observe. “Nonetheless, we did get some inter­esting yet faint pictures, some with the coronagraph as we pointed at the center of the sun and some as we pointed the whole Skylab cluster at the comet before and after it swept around the sun,” Gibson said. “These later maneuvers were cumbersome (twenty keystrokes were required for a single maneuver) yet a testimony to the ingenuity of the ground control team that we could make any off-sun observations with the atm at all!

“In addition to what we could capture on film, we recorded on paper what our most sensitive and versatile optical instruments onboard could detect—the human eye,” Gibson continued. “The comet came out from behind the sun on the day we had scheduled a spacewalk to replace the atm film. Even with the strong filtering of our space helmet visors, the spike of brightness that pointed at the sun and away from the tail was evident. Over the next week we monitored Kohoutek, especially its sunward spike, and made sketches of what we saw, which are now on display in the Smithso­nian in Washington DC.”

Ed Gibson said, “The operation of the atm observatory was complex, exhilarating, frustrating, rewarding, tiring, and totally absorbing. All refer­ence to where the space station was over the ground would be lost; only the time remaining in daylight was of importance. The c&D panel was com­plex, demanded one’s full attention, and invited errors—even after all the effort that went into its design. I sometimes forgot some of its nomenclature, even though I was central in the design process. Some of the readouts were in decimal (base ten) and some were in octal (base eight), which could also cause confusion. The combined procedures were sometimes very complex or required alerts and timers to remind the observer of actions to take or inter­locks to make sure the some actions were not taken. During design we all tried our best to put these alerts, timers, and interlocks in place, but we fell short of optimum. Also the more an observer knew about solar physics, the larger the dilemma he faced: ‘Do I use some of our valuable time in daylight to search the sun for potentially more rewarding targets than sent up from the ground, or do I just punch the buttons on cue as requested?’ The com­promises made were often followed by many could-of’s and should-of’s.

“And yet, as the weeks went by a simplicity of operations emerged for me: If one fully understood the capabilities of each instrument, the physics of the sun’s surface, and the needs of each pi, the jops could be pushed into the background. The task really became one of matching the state of the sun’s surface with the capabilities and needs of each instrument; that is, the sheet music (jops) were put away and the atm played by ear (full utilization of one’s knowledge and intellect). Of course, I never took this extreme lat­itude on those days that the atm was scheduled to be operated. However, on Sundays, our day off, I chose to give the Pis some bonus data and operate the observatory in this way. I felt somewhat like a piano player in the silent movie theater; the instrument was played to match the visible action. After six to seven continuous orbits of observation, I felt exhilarated yet drained, rewarded yet frustrated by what was left undone.

“Of course, each of us could have performed better with more in-flight time, more training, additional displays and interlocks, and more direct com­munication with the ground scientists. Even so, the atm observatory oper­ations were a milestone that far surpassed the contributions that a scientif­ic operator in orbit had so far demonstrated and set the bar high for future human utilization on space missions.”

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

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.

Crew Given Go for Another Week in Space

Astronauts Carr, Gibson, and Pogue now in their 63 rd day in space were given the go for another seven days. For the remainder of the mission, weekly evalua­tions of crew, consumables, and hardware will be made by nasa officials. The second weekly review was completed this afternoon. Following the review of in­flight medical data and the recommendation of Dr. Charles A. Berry, nasa Director for Life Sciences, William C. Schneider, Skylab Program Director, gave approval for the mission to continue until at least January 24.

Concerned about what effect the extended duration would have on the health of the astronauts when they returned to Earth, NASA doctors were getting more ambitious with the postflight medical protocols for the crew. NASA medical management had been persuaded, over the strenuous objec­tions of some astronauts, that direct measurement of cardiac output by means of a catheter inserted into an artery in the arm and extended into the heart would give valuable data about the possible effect of weightlessness on car­diac function. A dry run was scheduled with the deputy crew flight surgeon as the test subject. A Johnson Space Center press release reported:

A volunteer subject fainted and suffered a brief loss of heart beat but was imme­diately revived during a cardiac output evaluation test conducted under con­trolled conditions for the Skylab medical program. The subject, Lt. Col. Edouard Burchard, required no hospitalization and was back on duty a short time lat­er. The incident occurred after a needle had been placed in Lt. Col. Burchard’s artery during the test. He responded immediately to the normal therapy that includes an injection of atropine and external heart massage.

The test, conducted at the Space Center Hospital near the Johnson Space Cen­ter, was a simulation ofone ofthe postflight medical analysis checks considered for the Skylab iii astronauts after their return to Houston. The purpose of the test is to get a precise measurement ofcardiac output by introducing a dye into the blood system. Such dye dilution tests are routinely used in cardiac research diagnosis and medical officials said Lt. Col. Burchard’s reaction was very unusu­al. As a result of the incident, however, Skylab program officials have decid­ed that the test will not be performed on any of the returning [astronauts]. Lt. Col. Burchard is a West German Air Force medical officer detailed to nasa. He serves as deputy flight surgeon for the Skylab iii crew.

So that was another worry off the minds of the crew. “Upon our return, we presented Dr. Burchard with a bottle of scotch with a note thanking him for ‘his willingness to protect us with his life,’ said Carr.

Another area of concern was the dwindling supplies available on Skylab. From the outset the food supply had presented a challenge—namely, there wasn’t going to be enough of it to extend the mission as much as mission planners hoped. Further, the “gold-rush” attitude of scientists who wanted to get their experiments on the manifest after the success of Skylab II fur­ther limited the amount of space available for other cargo on the Command Module, which carried the Skylab ill crew to the station. With a lack of food on the station and a lack of space to carry more food, there was a need for an innovative solution.

And an innovative solution was found: food bars. When the crew launched, they carried with them a supply of nutritional bars developed jointly by NASA, the U. S. Air Force, and the Pillsbury Company. “The difficulty with stay­ing up that long was that we had only had enough food for fifty-six days and too many experiments to take up in the Command Module, which was already overloaded,” Gibson said. “So we volunteered, actually agreed, that every third day we would eat nothing but food bars. That was probably one of the most supreme sacrifices anyone has ever made for the space pro­gram by a crewperson—food bars! Every third day we each consumed four of these little guys. Breakfast, which lasted about thirty seconds, consisted of four or five crunches, and that was it. There was no more. Meal’s over. I still have a tough time looking a food bar in the face. But the bars worked, and we stayed. They had all the minerals and calories that we needed. It’s not an ideal way to live, but they did work.”

However, the lack of one item really bothered Gibson. “You just can’t over­estimate the value of a good butter cookie,” he said. “We had an econom­ic system on Skylab whose basic monetary unit was the butter cookie. But when we got up there, most of our money had been consumed previously by both the hungry Marine [Jack Lousma] and the Skylab I commander, Pete Conrad. It caused runaway deflation in the Skylab ill economy.”

As if eighty days of food bars every third day were not enough, mission protocols required that the crew follow their Skylab diet regimen for twen­ty-one days before the mission. Even after returning to Earth at the end of the mission there was no reprieve; postflight required another eighteen days on the Skylab ill food-bar diet plan.

Other supplies also became of concern. “In mid-January 1973, when we were enjoying one of our ‘days off,’” Bill Pogue said, “I was looking down at the Earth, Ed was at the atm, and Jerry was doing an inventory of our remain­ing supplies. He floated down to his sleep compartment and left a message on the в Channel tape recorder for the ground control folks. Jerry was tell­ing them that he had discovered a shortage of approximately ten urine sam­ple containers, which we each used every morning to replace our individ­ual containers that we filled the day before. A part of this task was to draw off and put 122 milliliters (about the size of a large ice cube) into the sample receptacle, place the urine sample into a freezer, and put the used urine stor­age bag into a trash bag for later dumping into the Skylab dumpster.

“The next day Capcom called with a solution. We were to change out the urine bags every thirty-six hours instead of every twenty-four hours; using this procedure would insure the remaining sample containers would last to the end of the mission. We followed this makeshift procedure, and every­thing worked out fine. Still we couldn’t understand how the shortage had occurred because the people who prepared the mission equipment were high­ly competent. The waste sampling was to support a mineral-balance study conducted by the National Institutes of Health, and the principal investi­gator, Don Whedon, was most meticulous and careful. Once we got back to Earth we forgot the whole thing.

“Two months after our return the Astronaut Office had a ‘Pin Party’ for those Skylab astronauts who had made their first flight into space. The par­ty is essentially a shindig where the backup crews roast the prime crews for many of their goofs and screw-ups during training and flight. The prime crews swallow hard, thank the backup crews for all their hard work, respond with good-natured humility and perhaps a few light-hearted jests of their own, and then make special individual presentations to their backup crews.

“Jerry, Ed, and I just about fell out of our chairs when Al Bean presented the missing urine sample containers mounted, on a plaque with a person­al dedication plate, to each backup crewman. We looked at each other and burst out laughing. The ‘Mystery of the Purloined Pee Bags’ had been solved. They had been taken mistakenly by Al when the second crew returned to Earth. Of course we all quizzed Al and his crew about why they had devel­oped a personal attachment to our pee bags.”

Of course, the crew and spacecraft were not the only ones affected by the duration of the Skylab program. Neil Hutchinson recalled that Mission

Control was also feeling the effects of the passing months. “It wasn’t like a prize fight where you train, fight, and it’s over,” he said. “In Apollo and now the early Shuttle flights, you train and train and train, then the mis­sion goes, you work your tail off for a number of days, and the mission’s over. Skylab was never over.

“Chuck Lewis, another Skylab flight director, got very ill. I flew the last flight with a kidney problem that ended up in a very serious surgery. It’s not serious anymore, but in those days it was. It really, really took a lot out of people because you never got loose from it.

“We did all kinds of crazy stuff. We had our families in the control center for affairs to try and change the pace of things. I held a big dinner. Maybe all the flight directors did. It was a big sit-down catered dinner in the con­trol center while the spacecraft was still up but during one of those times between manned missions. We were just trying to keep people’s focus and attention. Still we had guys drop out of teams, and we had to change play­ers. It wasn’t that the control center was wilting on [Skylab ill], it really was the sum of the three missions; we were all on duty for nine months.

“But by this latter part of the mission, both the crew and Mission Con­trol were feeling really good because it all was going dramatically better. It became obvious we would get everything done and then some, and every­one could see the light at the end of the tunnel. As the last weeks of Skylab ill went by, we all felt better and better.”

Finally, the end of the mission neared. “I recall the last six weeks of the flight were very pleasant for me for two reasons,” Pogue said. “One, we’d achieved the skill level sufficient to do the job quickly and accurately, and second, I no longer suffered from the head congestion that had plagued me for about the first six weeks of the flight. Midway through the mission it didn’t seem to bother me much but became more like a low-grade head­ache that doesn’t really hurt very much even though it still slightly decreas­es your efficiency.

“We all had a much better feeling about the whole flight toward the end. In fact they asked us if we would stay up for another ten days. James Fletch­er, the administrator, had suggested it. Mentally we were prepared to come back, but more important, we didn’t have any food left even though we prob­ably could have scraped together enough for a few more days. But we came back on schedule after eighty-four days.”

“Medically,” said Gibson, “there were at least two reasons for our feeling so good: after our bone marrow greatly slowed its production of red blood

Crew Given Go for Another Week in Space

43- Carr and Pogue have fun with the possibilities presented by weightlessness.

cells, because our hemoglobin concentration had gone up in the first few days of the mission when we lost about three pounds of plasma from our circulating blood volume, it took a while for the hemoglobin concentration to drop low enough to trigger red blood cell production again. That pro­duction brought our circulating red cell mass back to normal, if not high­er, toward the end of our flight. Also the tone of our cardiovascular systems had improved as measured by our response to the lbnp, which saw us reach presyncope [nearly pass out] about midway through our mission, before we significantly improved.

“From a personal standpoint, I would have liked to stay longer. I had come to think of our space station as an average, three-bedroom home, just 270

miles high and whistling over the ground at five miles a second. It felt so sol­id, so secure, that it didn’t really feel like flying at all until we left it in our reentry vehicle. Then it felt just like leaving my home down here, sliding into a sports car, and accelerating back onto the road again. It was a comfortable home for sure, and I would’ve been content to live there for many years, if I had friends and family along. . . and maybe a good pizza delivery.”

There were things about the Earth that the crew missed, though. In his book of humorous space anecdotes, The Light Stuff Bob Ward, a newspa­per editor at The Huntsville Times reported:

As the final Skylab flight approached the end of its nearly three months in orbit, Houston used the onboard teleprinter to send up changes in the plans for closing down the workshop and preparing for the trip back home.

Astronaut Carr noted that these teleprinted instructions stretched almost from one end of the space station to the other— about fifty feet. That evening, when the new team of flight controllers came on duty, Carr couldn’t resist remarking that he fully expected Houston next to transmit the Old Testament.

Later Carr notified Capcom Bruce McCandless that the Skylab 3 crew want­ed a book sent up via teleprinter that evening.

“War and Peace? ” asked McCandless.

“No,”replied Carr, “Little Women.”

Then there was a brief pause and the astronaut added: “Bill (Pogue) says send him up a big one. ”

That the spacemen manning the last, and longest, Skylab mission may have had the opposite sex on their minds had been suggested a few days before the Little Women episode.

From orbit the astronauts had held a live press conference. nasa intended to include a set ofquestions from a sixth-grade class in a small town in New York, but time ran out. During the next orbit, flight controller Dick Truly went ahead and asked the children’s questions, anyway. He savedfor last the question ofone sixth-grader who wanted to know, Did the astronauts miss female companion­ship after so long a time?

Ed Gibson, taken aback by the frankness of the query, responded: “What grade did you say that was, Dick?”

Then the astronaut answered the precocious child’s question with a frank­ness of his own:

“Obviously, yes. ’”

Though the lumps given the Skylab ill crew by the media early in the mis­sion would affect their reputation for years to come, coverage of their suc­cesses by the same media was not as forthcoming. As the mission neared its close, it was one of the first missions ever since the early Gemini missions that the flight itself was not extensively covered by the media. In fact they didn’t even cover the return after the crew had set a time-in-space world record.

“At the time it happened, I didn’t realize it,” Gibson said, “because I was not looking at it from the outside. People were making a big deal out of it being an exception, but once I thought about it after a couple of months, I realized that in a way it was good. We’re trying to make space to be more commonplace and space operations to be more accepted because they were being done repetitively and routinely. People can’t be sitting on the edge of their chairs all the time, especially during long space station operations. So it’s only natural that people’s attention would drop off. I thought, ‘Well, maybe we’ve reached a point in the space program where it’s become more mature and lack of day-to-day interest it’s only natural. So, let’s accept it and move on.’”

And so, for Skylab’s final crew, preparations for the trip home began. Before they left, this final crew of Skylab made sure to leave the welcome mat out for any future visitors. Although there were no plans for another Skylab mission, there were hopes that a crew of the Space Shuttle, which it was then believed would be in operation well before Skylab deorbited, might come up, check on America’s first space station, and even boost it to a high­er orbit to extend its lifetime.

A time capsule was even prepared for a visiting Shuttle crew to return to Earth. In it were a variety of materials, which would allow scientists to study the effects of long-term exposure to the spacecraft’s environment. Although the time capsule was left inside Skylab, the venting of the atmosphere after the crew left meant that the materials were exposed to vacuum.

A few hiccups arose in getting ready to button up Skylab, close the hatch, and deorbit in the Command Module. “The frozen urine samples had to be put into an insulated container for their trip home,” Ed Gibson said. “Each of these frozen samples, about the size of a very large ice cube and often called ‘urinesicles’ by the crew, had expanded just slightly beyond the size allotted for them in the return containers. Thus I had a problem. Reentry was a few short hours away, and the whole sample return for a major exper­iment was in jeopardy.

“As beads of sweat seeped out, clung to me, and soaked my suit, out to the rescue came the old trusty Swiss Army knife with its coarse file! The sharp plastic edges on the entry lips of the containers were all then filed down to a bull nose so that the urinesicles could be forced into each container with only minimal damage. To say the least, I was elated that the knife was on board. Because of the concern for inhaling particles, we were not allowed to have files in the tool kit, but the one in the Swiss Army knife had slipped by detection.

“In the midst of these busy preparations to leave Skylab, the back of our minds began reflecting on its future. I thought that Skylab was a great office, lab, and home that had set the bar high for all space stations to come. And I also thought that in another three to six years, our current home would be replaced by either Skylab в, which is now sliced up and residing in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington DC, or another space station, which would be much easier and cheaper to build since we had the Skylab experience. ‘We only needed a few large tanks, a couple of dock­ing ports, a door for spacewalks, some first-class experiments, three or four cmgs to stabilize it all, and a few large solar panels hung on the outside for electricity. Nope, it’s not hard. All of it can be off the shelf. Let’s go do it.’ But that was not to be when it was decided to throw away the booster capa­bilities we dearly paid for in Apollo and hang our future on only one access to space, a shuttle.

“It all had seemed like it would be so simple, yet it’s come out so hard. The history of pioneering tells us that we shouldn’t expect progress to take place in a straight line. Thus, I have confidence that in the future we will have fully completed space stations in Earth orbit, each manned with six to eight highly competent personnel and that their scientific and techno­logic productivity will be judged far worth the effort by all but the most ardent critics.”

“Just as we were leaving Skylab, I almost had one last task to complete,” said Pogue. “We had lost a coolant loop between the second and the third mis­sions, so one of the first things I had to do when we arrived was to replen­ish and recharge the glycol solution in the failed coolant loop. It was that loop that we used for our water-cooled long johns [liquid cooled garment]) that we wore under our space suits on eva. So I was really interested that

it worked. We got it fixed real quickly. But just as I closed the hatch as we were leaving, the other loop failed. They asked if I wanted to go back in to fix it. I asked, ‘Why?’

“After we got in the Command Module, we went through a long series of involved procedures. We were almost euphoric all during this period. Of course, we did a fly-around, and I took about seventy-five pictures of Sky – lab as we went around for the last time.”

“When we undocked and made one trip around Skylab to photograph its condition,” said Gibson, “it was obvious that the sun’s ultraviolet light had greatly discolored all surfaces. What was white preflight was now tan. Even the white sunshade sail erected by the second crew had turned a gold­en tan with one notable exception. As we maneuvered over the surface that faced toward the sun, both sunshades rippled and waved in the gas stream from our reaction control thrusters. The sail erected by the second crew still displayed the creases from when it had been tightly folded in its stow­age container before Jack and Owen pulled it out and hoisted it up the twin pole supports. Jack had done a great job of unsticking and unfolding the sail, an unanticipated chore, except for one fold that now opened up under the wind gust of our thrusters. Like light from a cracked door, the material inside the fold beamed back a stark white in contrast to its surroundings, a feature readily apparent in pictures today.”

“Pretty soon after we separated,” recalled Bill Pogue, “we could see Skylab going away. After we did the first deorbit burn, which brought us down to about 125 miles, I remember thinking that, after looking at the Earth from 270 miles for several months, it was almost like hedgehopping at 125 miles where you perceive the ground going by a lot faster.

“Almost everything worked out quite well except that we did have a prob­lem with the reaction control system in the Command Module. One of our two rings [sets of attitude control jets] system had already lost pressure and had to be deactivated. The official record says that they told us to put on oxygen masks at this point, but we never heard the transmission so we nev­er had them on.

“The problem came after we had separated from the Service Module. I looked over at Jerry as he was moving the hand controller to get the right entry attitude, which we absolutely had to be at for reentry to avoid landing in the wrong location or being cremated before our time, and nothing was happening! I yelled, ‘Go direct.’ Direct is a mode that is entered by going to the hard stops on the hand controller, which bypasses all the black boxes and puts the juice directly to the solenoids controlling the propellants in the reaction control jets. It worked. We got close to the right entry attitude and threw it into autopilot, which steered us during reentry. No problem.

“When we got down on the deck, we were hoisted aboard the aircraft carrier, and everybody was in pretty good shape. We later found out that Jerry had inadvertently pulled all of the circuit breakers to the Command Module reaction control thrusters instead of those for the Service Module, which were to be unpowered to prevent arcing when the guillotine cut all those wires between the modules before they were separated. The Command Module breakers were right above those for the Service Module. Since Jerry was floating a little higher in zero gravity than in the simulations on Earth three months before and it was dark, it was an easy mistake to make. Human factors should dictate that you don’t put these sets of breakers adjacent to one another if you require that kind of a time-critical safety-of-flight pro­cedure. He just pulled the wrong ones, which was a real easy error to make. But it turned out fine. That was our biggest excitement during reentry: Jer­ry moved that hand controller and nothing happened.”

“At first,” Ed Gibson said, “reentry was like living inside a purple neon tube whose brightness gradually increased when we began colliding with air molecules in the upper atmosphere at mach 25. About the time we got the.05-G light [reached a deceleration of one-twentieth of gravity], I felt myself start to tumble but in no specific direction. ‘Strange,’ I thought, but then my vestibular system hadn’t felt any linear acceleration for eighty-four days, and my brain was trying to figure out how to interpret these faint murmurs coming from my inner ears. As the Gs increased, this feeling of tumbling was replaced by the strong sensation of deceleration that eventually hit over four Gs. The violet glow had progressed to a white-hot flame, the Gs and tur­bulence continued to build, and it was now more like living inside a vibrat­ing blast furnace. The flames from the heat shield streamed by my window and out behind us. Sitting in the center seat, I could watch the roll thrust­ers fire as the computer rolled the spacecraft to bring us down precisely on target, exactly three miles from the uss New Orleans, the aircraft carrier that waited to pick us up.

“Eventually, the light and turbulence subsided, a firm explosion above our heads told us the nose-cone ring had departed, and small drogue chutes streamed out to stabilize us. At ten thousand feet the drogues also departed, and the mains appeared. At first they were held partially closed or reefed, and then they billowed out to three good fully deployed chutes, which we were all happy to see. But I felt confused. Once on the mains we were obvi­ously pulling only one G. But then why did it feel like we were still pulling three Gs?

“We splashed down onto a calm sea with no wind. However, we still ended up in what NASA called Stable 2. Translated that means that we were hanging upside-down in the straps, bobbing up and down on the water in a closed damp cabin with the heat of reentry soaking back in—for me the most uncomfortable part of the whole flight or recovery!

“Before we got the balloons inflated that would right us, my mind flashed back to our training when we practiced what we would do if we remained in Stable 2 and had to exit the spacecraft by ourselves. We did the training in a Command Module mockup, very much like the real one, in a water tank in Houston. A lightning and thunderstorm was in full bloom as we began the exercise.

“As we got out of our straps, prepared to dive down into the tunnel to open the hatch, continue further down and out the tunnel, and swim to the surface, we noticed that the mockup was actually sinking! A relief valve had not closed properly and water was pouring into our habitable volume. No longer was this a casual training exercise; this was for real. With very little breathing air left, the last of us made it out and to the surface, using a pro­cedure we had never practiced before. The technicians outside had a crane that they could have used to pull the spacecraft out of the water—except that its use was not allowed when there was lightning in the area.

“I looked around our Command Module for signs of water. There were none. The bags inflated, we popped over to Stable i, and we gained access to the warm ocean air outside.

“We felt elated. We knew we had gone through an ordeal on this mis­sion yet made many major accomplishments that contributed to the space effort. It was a mission of which we would always be proud perhaps even more so because we had worked through some early and very difficult situ­ations before we turned it around and reached full stride.

“Nothing was left but medical tests, speeches, and a return to our fami­lies. Smiles were frozen onto our faces.

“Outside helicopters were hovering as frogmen jumped into the water and connected floatation devices and attachments to haul our Command Module aboard the deck of the uss New Orleans (lph-ii), an Iwo Jima—class amphibious assault ship (helicopter). It was clear these folks really knew what they were doing, since they had previously completed several Apol­lo recoveries.”

The uss New Orleans had been commissioned on 16 November 1968, exact­ly five years before the launch of the Skylab ill crew and wouldn’t be decom­missioned until і October 1997. In addition to supporting real space missions, it also supported the filming of Apollo 13, the movie. It could accommodate twenty-five helicopters on its 592-foot-long deck and reach the scene of the recovery at a speed of twenty-five knots. It was the third of four ships in the U. S. Navy to proudly bear the name of uss New Orleans; the fourth ship, a San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, was launched in 2004 and is still in service today.

Gibson continued, “Once back on the carrier deck, a part of me was depressed. No matter how hard I pushed off, I could no longer float. And no matter where I went, I was painfully aware that once again I had to haul along massive amounts of meat and bone. Later rolling over at night became a real engineering challenge. But the exercises that we did during our easy, lazy days of zero gravity, paid off. Unlike some other crews and after months in space, we could walk as soon as we landed and suffered no lasting effects.

“Yet even with the G-suit squeezing my legs and the switch on forehead thrown to one-G, I felt just a bit wobbly. We were all glad we had those G-suits because climbing out of the spacecraft, crumpling into a ball, and rolling off the platform into the crowd would not have been good public relations. After about two hours I could maneuver pretty well but with my feet spread wide apart. I suffered no nausea just as I hadn’t when entering zero gravity. Training, hard work, or fortitude had nothing to do with it—I was just lucky.

“After about two days, I could walk without any noticeable difference from my preflight gait, but it took about two weeks to hit my preflight per­formance in the balance tests.

“There was another disappointment to deal with when we came back. Without gravity in flight, each of our vertebrae had expanded a bit, and we each became about two inches taller. What a great deal! But our new height was short-lived as soon as gravity got us back into its clutches again.

“Upon return to Ellington Field in Houston, we had to stand on a plat­form for almost an hour trying to say something historic. The wobbly legs returned, and I again feared tumbling off the platform into the crowd. But the legs held and the wobble abated.

“Then I did a dumb thing. About four days after landing, I felt better than I thought I might, so I figured I ought to stop lollygagging around and get back to my standard exercise, a relaxed five-mile run. Wrong thing to do! Muscles and joints that had little stress on them for three months screamed their pain at me for the next two weeks.

“At least in addition to our pride and personal satisfaction, we were hand­somely compensated by NASA. After all, we had traveled thirty-five million miles. Each and every day we received a government travel allowance, which because our meals, quarters, and transportation were government provided, came up to $2.38. Over our eighty-four-day flight, that came up to a whop­ping $ 199.92 for each one of us!”

There was great rejoicing when Skylab ill — and the whole Skylab pro­gram —ended in success. A lot of tired people got to know their families again. And the participants busied themselves with documenting their les­sons learned for the future, hoping that the future would soon include a per­manent space station.

Skylab had clearly demonstrated the value of human intelligence applied in a hands-on way onboard the nation’s first space station. It had also shown that humans retain all their abilities and needs even when they are several hundred miles up. Proper work scheduling, positive motivation, and mean­ingful communication are just as essential in flight as they on the ground, if not even more so.

Those directly involved began to reflect on what had been accomplished and contemplate our future in space. “But shoot,” said Pogue, “talk about something that was successful, Skylab was highly successful! It was our first space station and focused attention on long-term reliability of systems and proper integration and support of the crews. Apollo flights lasted eight days or ten days. That’s one thing. But when you stay up there for months, your systems and crews are going to see a much greater exposure to all the problems that are waiting for you in zero gravity and the space environment. Now we see how difficult it will be to design reliable systems and support crews for something as long as a Mars mission, which is nominally about two to three years.”

Ed Gibson said, “It was a great sense of accomplishment; we had met all our mission objectives, averaged as many accomplishments per unit time as previous crews, despite our slow start, and had set a world record for time in space. But in only a few short years the Russians eclipsed our mark.

“However, our mission did set an American record that lasted for twen­ty-one years. Actually we expected and wanted to have our American record broken within four to six years—on an American station! But that was not to be. Norm Thagard, a very capable guy, broke our endurance record, but he did it on the Russian Mir space station.

“We all recognize Skylab was the beneficiary of the program that came before it: Apollo. Skylab itself was constructed in large part with hardware that became available when the last three missions to the moon were can­celed. Unlike today it was launched all in one shot using the Saturn v, which was the greatest rocket system the United States has ever developed. It could put 250,000 pounds into low Earth orbit, about seven times what the Shuttle can do today. It launched many flights in the early years and got the whole space program off to a fast start including Skylab.

“My own view of this fast start began back in 1957, when I, my parents, and Julie, my girlfriend then and wife now, stood out in the backyard of our home in Kenmore, which is just north of Buffalo. We watched man­kind’s first satellite go over, the Soviet Sputnik. Back then, I’d never heard the word astronaut. But just fifteen years later, my parents stood out in the same backyard and watched me go over.

“But the rapid pace and success of the early years was not because of hardware alone; people and leadership made it happen. We in the astro­naut office closely experienced one of the very best: Deke Slayton. He was one of the Original Seven astronauts but was medically grounded before he could fly. Rather than quit, he was driven to contribute wherever he could, and he was appointed the head of Flight Crew Operations, which included the challenge of keeping over forty headstrong astronauts under control, a daunting task. But he was tough and very mission focused. If you were also there, like him, to advance the mission, he gave you his full support. If you

were to advance yourself, he’d rip out the flamethrower and turn you to a crisp in nothing flat. He was the right guy for the job.

“In Deke’s demands for an overwhelming focus on the mission, which he applied unselfishly to himself as well, he was tough but fair, harsh but kind, someone I respected, trusted, liked, and feared all at the same time. I’ve seen many leaders in my career, some very sophisticated, but I regard Deke as one of the best I’ve ever encountered. He and many others like him made Apollo and Skylab happen. To the cheers of everyone around him, Deke finally did get to fly on Apollo-Soyuz, the joint U. S.—Russian mis­sion after Skylab.

“Future space stations will have a hard time matching Skylab’s high scien­tific accomplishments for its relatively low cost. Based on Skylab, we should expect that future stations will discover new materials of engineering and biological importance, as well as new knowledge of how our bodies func­tion without gravity, important for better understanding how they function right down here on Earth, as well as on future long-term missions far from Earth. But with the more complex systems that must last for many years, not just months, we would expect that proper manning of a station should reach at least six crewpersons, preferably seven or eight, to keep the station in full operation, properly perform really top-notch science and technolo­gy experiments, and realize the real potential of a space station. There is no good reason that we cannot perform Nobel Prize-quality science up there, just as we do down here!

“In the long run, despite tragedies and budget droughts the prospects for America in space remain bright. Most important, we have within our peo­ple, still, a spirit and will that wants nothing more than ever-deeper explo­rations of space, and its profitable use. We have physical facilities in America second to none. And charging in the front door, we have our youth, equal­ly motivated and far better trained than those young engineers who took us to the moon and into Skylab. Lastly, we have our graybeards, engineers and managers with the knowledge and wisdom from decades of experience.

“Certainly, in time, we will complete and properly staff the Internation­al Space Station, return to the moon, land on Mars, and eventually explore the rest of our solar system. But beyond that? In the back of my mind I spec­ulated when I was on Earth’s dark side during evas. The stars were clear, steady, and not a twinkle to be seen in any of them. A dense hemisphere of

stars swelled into existence as my eyes got dark-adapted. There’s got to be life out there!

“As we find more and better ways to visualize planets around other stars, we just might visualize a blue planet, one with an oxygen atmosphere. Then the pull would be irresistible. We’d have a crash program for near-light-speed flight, then a mission that’d fire our imagination far more than any fantasy from Star Trek. But we all understand that the distances are immense. On our Skylab flight, we traveled thirty-five million miles, which is the distance that light goes in just three minutes. Yet it takes light over four years just to reach our closest neighboring star. Clearly when it comes to deep space travel, we’ve just barely put a few layers of skin on our big toe out the front door.

“But it’s also clear that we’re on the front end of something much larger than any of us can imagine, travels and adventures far greater than anything we can now picture. And it’s also clear that we’ll never stop exploring, nev­er stop reaching outward—it’s hard-wired into our psyche. I believe that if you scratch deep enough into the tough hide of even the most cynical, hard – boiled, space engineer, like a few of those you’ve encountered in this book, lurking at their core you’ll find a Trekkie; that’s someone who realizes that space probes and all their data are interesting, often exciting, but ultimate­ly, it’s we who have to go there, in person, to see and feel new turf up close before it truly becomes a real part of our own world.

“One day, certainly in the long-term, driven by the human spirit, we will travel in vehicles that are derivatives of Skylab and subsequent space stations out to the rest of our solar system and, eventually, beyond.”


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.

Science on Skylab

Several books could be—and have been—written to summarize all of the scientific experiments performed on Skylab. Almost one hundred different pieces of experiment equipment were manifested for the original launch. Thousands of hours were spent on science. Tens of thousands of Earth obser­vation images were taken as well as over a hundred thousand solar astron­omy images.

The two fields that were Skylab’s greatest scientific legacy, as well as the ones requiring the largest time investments from its crews, were solar astronomy and life sciences in weightlessness. Research performed on Sky­lab would revolutionize both of these fields and would lay the groundwork for all that would come later.

Life Sciences

The Prologue: Early Spaceflight

Skylab was medicine’s first, best chance to unravel the mysteries of weight­lessness. Man’s ability to fly into space and to withstand the effects of being weightless had been matters of controversy since the very beginning of NASA. Opinions were all over the map. Some believed the experience would be pleasant and of no medical significance; the original astronauts were in this group. Others speculated that disruption would occur in many body sys­tems. Balance would go haywire without gravity to guide the inner ear; the heart would weaken; the passage of food “down” the digestive tract would suffer; urination might be impossible; and the isolation would induce a state of sensory deprivation, the “ breakoff phenomenon.” A lot of these hypothe­ses were published in medical journals, promoting the impression that space was dangerous and unknown.

The U. S. Air Force had begun to prepare itself to manage America’s manned space efforts, and this preparation included medical support. It was the unquestioned leader in the field of aerospace medicine with three

times the personnel and four times the budget of its closest competitor, the Navy. A distinguished German physician and physiologist, Hubertus Strug – hold, established in 1950 the first department of Space Medicine, at the U. S. Air Force School of Aviation Medicine. Other German scientists also did research for the Air Force.

NASA’s predecessor organization, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, or naca, had no medical staff or expertise; all of its origi­nal experts were borrowed from the military. To provide medical support to Project Mercury, the Air Force contributed William Douglas, Stanley White, and Charles Berry; the Army, William Augerson; and the Navy, Robert Voas. These men brought with them the military method of qual­ifying humans for the stresses of flight. As aircraft flew faster and higher, pilot tolerance to and protection from acceleration, hypoxia, and disorien­tation had become major problems. The approach to solving them empha­sized testing and monitoring both in laboratories and in flight, an incre­mental increase in human exposure with healthy skilled test pilots, and very close liaison between medicine and engineering.

The academic community’s advice was quite different. It emphasized peer – reviewed scientific experiments by National Institutes of Health or univer­sity scientists and a great deal of animal research before exposing humans. The rationale was that the effects of spaceflight must be characterized and proven safe before people flew. Throughout the 1960s a continuous stream of criticism was heaped upon NASA by scientists: its programs were too ambi­tious, too rushed, not safe. One group insisted that NASA fly forty animals into space before committing to human flight.

Animals were the first to be sent into space. In December 1958 a squir­rel monkey named Old Reliable was launched in the nose cone of a Jupiter missile to an apogee of three hundred miles; it survived the launch, but the nose cone was lost upon reentry. In May 1959 a rhesus and a squirrel mon­key, Able and Baker, made the same trip and survived. Two chimpanzees, Ham and Enos, became the first animals to ride in Project Mercury cap­sules — Ham on a suborbital flight and Enos for two orbits. Both did fine. Mercury’s medical support group believed that these flights, plus the reports from the Soviet Union of a successful six-day Soviet flight of the dog Laika on Sputnik 2 in 1958 (though recent information indicates that Laika’s flight was far less successful that early reports would have had the world believe), showed that weightlessness was survivable, at least for short periods.

But biological scientists wanted still more. Led by Ames Research Cen­ter, they achieved NASA approval and funding for the Biosatellite project, which would launch and study various life forms on dedicated satellites. The first Biosatellite mission failed on launch. The second successfully flew plants and insects into space in September 1967. The third was to fly a ful­ly instrumented monkey, Bonnie, on a thirty-day mission to pave the way for the Skylab program.

Biosatellite 3 launched on 29 June 1969. The spacecraft was built by Gener­al Electric Reentry Systems Division at Philadelphia, weighed 1,550 pounds, and was launched on a Delta into a 240 nautical-mile circular orbit. Reen­try was commanded on the ninth day of the flight, on 7 July (just nine days before Apollo 11 launched to the moon). Bonnie was recovered but died less than half a day later.

Here is a letter on University of California, Los Angeles letterhead, to the editor of Science magazine, dated 14 August 1969. It’s a copy of a copy of the original. At top left someone has written, “This has been submitted to SCI­ENCE for publication although NASA objected to certain portions thereof.” And on the right the person wrote “slayton.”

It’s a lengthy letter. Here are a few excerpts:

The recent flight of Biosatellite iii with a male macaque monkey (Macaca nem – estrina) was the culmination of more than five years’ intense collaborative sci­entific effort. . . . The flight lasted only 8y ofa planned 30 days. . . . The phys­iologic deterioration of the monkey. . . is mainly attributed to the effects of weightlessness. . . .

The monkey was in excellent physical condition at the time oflaunch…. All physiological sensors functioned perfectly throughout the flight and after recov­ery. There were 33 channels of physiological information…. The range of these measurements in different body systems and their detailed character are with­out parallel in any single previous experiment on Earth or in space.

The last sentence had been underlined, and in Deke’s unmistakable hand was the comment, “That’s what killed him.” (Garriott joked that if the surgical preparations the monkey underwent, among the least violative of which included incisor tooth extraction and tail amputation, had been required for potential Skylab astronauts, NASA would have lost nine out of nine crewmembers.)

The letter goes on to describe the monkey’s gradual loss of responsiveness to tests; the drop in body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure; the emergency reentry, and the death in Hawaii from a sudden heart arrhyth­mia after hours of emergency treatment. Now the investigators sum up:

The well-documented sequence of events leading to collapse in this monkey sug­gest the need for a guarded approach to design of missions for man that might involve extreme effort after a considerable exposure to weightlessness. . . the important findings listed above characterize this mission as highly successful. They also indicate the great value of carefully designed animal experiments… especially where the physiological sensors and required experimental control are difficult or impossible to secure in mannedflight. Sincerely, five scientists.

In the q&a session at a press conference, held 22 October 1969, Dr. W. Ross Adey, the principal investigator, was asked, “Why believe one bad result in a monkey instead of seventeen good ones in astronauts?” He replied that the astronauts didn’t do all that well, really—Dick Gordon never did get the tether attached (on Gemini 11), and he sweated profusely. Then the fol­lowing exchange occurred.

Question: To follow up Bill Hines’s question: might your experiments with this monkey indicate that monkeys are less adapted to spaceflight than men are?

Adey: Well, I think the question of individual susceptibility cannot be ruled out. After all, this is one monkey, and there are seventeen men. And here I would like to take off my hat as an experimenter and put on anoth­er one, as a member of the President’s Science Advisory Committee, which has had a medical group looking into the question of the biomedical foun­dations of manned spaceflight. And their advisory document to the Presi­dent has been released and is in the course of being published. And I would submit that the best considered opinion is that we do not now have the bio­medical basis for going ahead with the very elaborate programs proposed in the way of space platforms and space stations which involve major new engineering developments, and that the biomedical competence—or rather, the body of knowledge, as the report says—and I think I quote it correctly; it says that the necessary biomedical basis does not exist in NASA nor in the scientific community generally, and that it is not realistic to go ahead with the planning of major new space systems and exclude from almost any con­sideration the question of the biomedical capability of man to not merely

survive in space, which has been his requirement to this point, in essence, but to perform at a high level on a continuing basis.”

Kerwin recalled, “Well. That truly threw down the gauntlet to us Skylab types. None of us were thrilled to hear that the Apollo 11 mission had dem­onstrated mere survival. But clearly it was up to us to show that we could perform at a high level—on a continuing basis—while floating around. That we could brush our teeth, go to the bathroom, take spacewalks, yes, even (gasp) do science—just like Bonnie had.

“Chuck Berry’s response to the Biosatellite business was courageous and correct. He publicly and accurately identified the differences between the monkey’s circumstances and ours and judged Skylab to be safe. Given a lot of bedside hovering, of course. He’d put himself on the spot, and when things didn’t go perfectly early on in our mission, some medical pessimism returned.”

Meanwhile, those seventeen astronauts had flown into space for dura­tions that ranged from four and a half hours to fourteen days, and they’d all performed well and recovered quickly from any effects of the flights. There had been changes. There was weight loss, ranging upwards of ten pounds. There was loss of appetite and in some cases motion sickness. There was some muscle weakness after flight. Blood volume decreased, and a few astro­nauts had a tendency to be light-headed immediately after recovery. On one flight (Apollo 15, well after Biosatellite) there were disturbing heartbeat patterns in two crew members. Calcium excretion increased, and there was just a hint that bones might be losing structural strength. These gave rise to questions about the feasibility of long-duration spaceflight. Skylab was the place to answer them.

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: