A Tour of Skylab

Perhaps the best way to begin a tour of Skylab is to begin where its crews did—on the outside, with a look at the station’s exterior.

If a crew in an Apollo Command Module were to approach Skylab with its docking port before them, the nearest module would be the Multiple Dock­ing Adapter (mda) . From the exterior, the mda was basically a nondescript cylinder, marked primarily by its two docking ports. One of the docking ports, the one used by the crews docking with Skylab, was located on the end of the cylinder. The second, the radial docking port, was at a ninety – degree angle from the first, on the circumference of the mda.

The other notable feature of the Multiple Docking Adapter was the truss structure that surrounded it and connected it to the Apollo Telescope Mount (atm), on the side of Skylab opposite the radial docking port. The atm is easily recognized by its four solar arrays, which had a very distinctive wind­mill appearance. Between the four rectangular arrays was a cylinder that housed the atm’s eight solar astronomy instruments. Covers over the instru­ment apertures rotated back and forth, revealing the instruments when they were in use and protecting them from possible contamination when they were not.

Continuing from mda, the crew would next come to the Airlock Mod­ule (am), a smaller cylinder partially tucked into the end of the exterior hull of the larger workshop cylinder. The Airlock Module was most nota­ble, as the name suggests, for its airlock featuring an exterior door allow­ing the crew to egress to conduct spacewalks outside the station. While the program that spawned Skylab had been dubbed “Apollo Applications” for its extensive use of Apollo hardware and technology, the Airlock Module was actually a “Gemini Application” — the door used for evas was a Gem­ini spacecraft hatch.

The airlock and all the spacewalk equipment on Skylab were designed for one purpose — to allow the crew to retrieve and replace film from the solar

telescope cameras on the Apollo Telescope Mount. “There was no thought of the crews doing repairs or maintenance on other things,” Kerwin said. “Little did we know!”

The airlock was partly covered by the Fixed Airlock Shroud, a stout alu­minum cylinder that was a forward extension of the skin of the workshop. The aft struts from which the Apollo Telescope Mount was suspended were mounted here. The truss structure included a path, complete with handholds that spacewalking astronauts could use to move from the airlock hatch to the atm so that they could change out the film.

Finally moving farther past the Airlock Module, the crew would reach the largest segment of Skylab, the cylindrical Orbital Workshop. This was the portion that consisted of the modified s-ivb stage. As it was originally con­structed, the most distinctive features of the station were the two solar array wings, which stretched out to either side and which were to be the primary source of electrical power for the workshop. Prior to launch the photovolta­ic cells that made up the arrays folded up flat against the beam that would hold them out from the sides of the workshop. These beams, in turn, fold­ed down against the outside of the s-ivb stage in its launch configuration, making the wings much more aerodynamic for the flight into orbit.

After completing their fly around, a crew would return to the top of the Multiple Docking Adapter and dock their spacecraft to the station. A com­plete tour of the interior of Skylab should begin right there on their cap­sule. After docking, the Command and Service Module became a part of the cluster. While there were occasions when things needed to be done in the Command Module, they were few. Perhaps its primary use while docked with Skylab was essentially as a telephone booth; crewmembers could float up to the Command Module to find a little privacy for conducting space – to-ground communications with their loved ones at home on a back-up fre­quency that was not available in the workshop.

Upon opening the hatch and entering Skylab, the crew would first find themselves inside the mda. Originally planned to have a total of four dock­ing ports around its circumference, the mda lost three as a result of the switch from the wet workshop to the dry. When the wet workshop cluster, which had to be assembled individually on orbit, was replaced with a facil­ity launched all at once as a dry workshop, the additional ports at which to dock separately launched modules were not needed. Eliminating the three

A Tour of Skylab

14- A cutaway view of the Skylab space station.

extra docking ports freed up a large amount of wall space around the mda’s circumference, space that was utilized to turn the module into essentially an additional science annex.

The design of the interior of the Multiple Docking Adapter was itself one of Skylab’s experiments. The argument had been made that in the micro­gravity environment in orbit there was no need to follow the same design paradigms that were unavoidable on the ground. There was no need to leave a floor empty to walk on. The ceilings were no more out of reach than walls, and equipment could be placed on them just as easily as on a wall. The mda was an experiment in designing for that environment, with no up or down. Equipment was located all the way around the wall of the cylin­der, allowing more complete use of the available space than would be prac­tical on Earth.

Foremost among the scientific equipment located in the module was the operator’s station for the Apollo Telescope Mount, a large flat panel featur­ing the controls and displays for the atm with a narrow table in front of it.

The atm console was arguably evidence of the extent to which the module’s designers were influenced by Earthbound thinking. Though care was tak­en to design the mda as an ideal microgravity work environment, the atm console was furnished with a chair for the astronauts to sit in while oper­ating the controls. “We called it the ‘Commander’s Chair,’ because it was Pete’s idea,” notes first crew science pilot Joe Kerwin. “It didn’t survive lon­ger than about the first two weeks of our mission; we then put it away some­where, and I don’t think anyone retrieved it.”

Also located in the mda was the Materials Processing Facility. Included in this experiment was a furnace used to study flammability and melting of solid materials in microgravity. The adapter also housed the Earth resourc­es experiment equipment.

Leaving the Multiple Docking Adapter and heading farther down into Skylab, one would next come into the Airlock Module, the function of which was very aptly described by its name. Joining the mda and the Air­lock Module together was the Structural Transition Section, which con­nected the larger diameter of the Docking Adapter on one end to that of the smaller Airlock Module on the other. The Structural Transition Sec­tion housed extensive systems operation equipment. The Airlock Module provided a way for astronauts to egress the station for spacewalks. Before they could go outside, the Airlock Module would have to be shut off from the rest of the station and then depressurized. Once the atmosphere had been removed, the airlock hatch could be opened, and the eva crewmem­bers could go outside.

To prepare for an eva, all three crewmembers would put on their space- suits in the larger open area of the Orbital Workshop, where the equipment was stored. The astronaut who would be staying inside stopped short of don­ning his helmet and gloves but suited up the rest of the way in case a prob­lem occurred. The eva umbilicals were stored in the Airlock Module, and the ends of these were pulled down into the workshop during this time and connected to the suits of the two eva crewmen. These provided oxygen, cooling, and communications for the two astronauts who would be going outside as well as tethering them to the station.

Once all three were suited up, the non-EVA crewman would precede the others, move through the airlock and into the MDA/Structural Transition Section. There he would attach himself to a shorter umbilical. With his

helmet off, he would be breathing the atmosphere in the mda, but in the bulky spacesuit, he needed the umbilical for cooling as well as for communi­cations. The eva crewmen would move to the airlock and close both hatches (helped on the mda side by the third crewmember). Once the hatches were closed, the Airlock Module would be depressurized by venting its atmo­sphere into space. The outside hatch would be opened, and the two space – walkers could venture outside.

Once the eva was completed, the two astronauts would return to the Airlock Module and close the outside hatch. The am would be repressur­ized, and they would open equalization valves in both end hatches to assure equal pressure with the rest of the station. Finally, they’d open both hatch­es, return to the workshop and doff their suits. The normal pressure regu­lation system would add gas to the workshop as needed.

The Airlock Module’s location in the middle of Skylab meant that a prob­lem with repressurization could mean the end of the mission. If for some reason the module were unable to hold an atmosphere, the third crewman would put on his helmet and gloves and depressurize the Multiple Docking Adapter. The other two would disconnect their umbilicals from the Air­lock Module and rely on a reserve oxygen supply in their suits while they opened the hatch between the two modules, and moved into the docking adapter. Once there, they would reconnect their umbilicals in the mda, and then seal it off from the Airlock Module and repressurize it. If they and the ground were then unable to figure out a way to fix the problem with the Air­lock Module, the mission would be aborted. They would leave the mda for the Command Module and return home.

Continuing deeper into the station, one would next reach the large Orbit­al Workshop volume. This section was divided into two “stories,” with a hole in the middle of the floor of the top story that allowed the crew to move between them.

Like the Multiple Docking Adapter, the workshop was part of the exper­iment in designing for microgravity. Whereas the mda was designed with­out consideration for the direction of gravitational force on the ground, the approach to the workshop design had been to keep in mind that it would be used by men whose brains had long been wired for the one-G environment in which they had lived their entire lives. The “bottom” story of the work­shop was arranged with a very definite up and down. Furnishings and large

equipment sat on the floor like they would on Earth (with a few exceptions), and the walls functioned more or less the way walls normally do. The upper compartment was more of a hybrid, with variations from the one-G—based design of the lower section.

The area at the top of the workshop was very unusual by spacecraft stan­dards. Traditionally spacecraft design is a field in which mass, and by exten­sion volume, are at a premium, reflecting the challenge of moving anything from the surface of the Earth into orbit. As a result spacecraft tend to be rel­atively cramped with every inch utilized as much as possible. While mod­ern spacecraft like the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station are roomy compared to early vehicles like the Mercury and Gemini cap­sules, their designs still reflect the basic limitations in putting any mass into orbit. Skylab had a couple of advantages that made it exceptional in that respect. The availability of the Saturn v as the launch vehicle and the deci­sion to use an s-ivb for the Orbital Workshop meant that it was much less constrained by the traditional mass and volume limitations. Nowhere was that more apparent than at the top of the workshop, which featured an open volume that by spacecraft standards was incredibly large. While the low­er floor was divided into separate “rooms,” the upper floor, the larger of the two, was not divided. An astronaut could float freely in the middle of this volume without bumping into the walls.

In fact Skylab’s designers were concerned that this could present a real problem. They feared that an astronaut could get stranded in the middle of this open volume; without anything nearby to push off, he would have to rely on air currents or his crewmates to push him back toward a solid sur­face. To eliminate this danger and to provide for easier movement through Skylab, they provided a “fireman’s pole” in the middle of the workshop, running from one end to the other. The idea was that the astronauts would hold on to the pole to move “up” and “down” the workshop. The pole, how­ever, proved unnecessary, and the crews found that it just got in the way. It turned out to be quite easy to push off from a surface and glide to one’s des­tination —no pole required. The first crew took it down for the duration of their stay, but at the end, politely restored Skylab to factory specs, reinstall­ing the pole for the second crew. They in turn did the same—promptly tak­ing it out of their way but putting it back before they left so that the third crew could remove it one last time.

The upper portion of the workshop dome volume was left almost vacant for experiments requiring a lot of volume for checkout, like a Manned Maneu­vering Unit prototype. Just below this was a ring of white storage lock­ers, which the first crew found provided an excellent “track” to enable easy shirt-sleeve jogging and tumbling around the inside circumference of the workshop. Also located in the upper deck were storage of food supplies for all three missions, a refrigerator and a very heavy (on Earth, at least) steel vault for film storage.

A few experiments were also located in this area, including Skylab’s equiv­alent of bathroom scales, the body mass measurement device, which the astronauts used to keep track of how much “weight” they had lost or gained. The upper dome volume was also where the two astronaut maneuvering units were kept. One was a backpack device that was the forerunner of the Manned Maneuvering Unit later used on some Space Shuttle missions and of safer, the Simplified Aid for eva Rescue, used on the Internation­al Space Station. (Ironically, a member of the one Skylab crew that did not get to test the maneuvering unit, Joe Kerwin, was a co-inventor of the saf­er unit, while working at Lockheed Martin years later.) The other device was a maneuvering aid that astronauts operated with their feet, rather than their hands.

The upper story of the workshop also featured a pair of airlocks. Too small for a person to go through—only about ten inches square—the two Scientific Airlocks (sals) were designed for solar physics, astronomy, Earth photography, and space exposure experiments, allowing astronauts to pass materials samples through to see how they weathered the harsh environs outside. The two airlocks were on opposite sides of the compartment from each other; a solar airlock pointed in the same direction as the Apollo Tele­scope Mount, while the antisolar sal faced in the opposite direction. (This solar-looking airlock would be an important part of addressing problems that occurred during launch.)

Also located at the top of the dome was Skylab’s unofficial “Lost and Found.” “Most of us have enough trouble keeping up with our pencils, notes, paper clips, and other small items here on Earth in a largely ‘two dimension­al’ world,” Garriott explained. “By two dimensions, we mean that an object may get pushed around horizontally, but it seldom floats away vertically in a third dimension, like a feather might do. But space is different—everything floats away unless it is tethered or tied down. But our eyes and our minds

have been trained for years to look only on the tops of surfaces to find lost articles. We may not ‘see’ a small floating object in space, or may not look in all the more obscure places a lost article may have become lodged.

“But serendipity came to the rescue here,” he said. “The very slow air cir­culation from the lower decks up to the single air intake duct in the top of the dome volume slowly urged all drifting objects to come to it. We found that each morning when we arose, we could find many of our small, lost articles on the screen on the intake duct!”

At the bottom of each of the workshop’s two “stories” were floors with an open-grid construction that was a fortunate relic of Skylab’s development. During the wet-workshop phase of Skylab’s history, engineers looked at whether any of the station’s infrastructure could be included in the s-ivb stage while it was being used as a fuel tank up to, and during, the launch. Anything that could be built into the tank would mean mass that would not have to be carried up later, and installation work that the crew would be spared. The catch of course was that it would also have to be something that could withstand the environment of an s-ivb filled with cryogenic pro­pellants, that it could not pose a risk of igniting the propellants, and that it must not interfere with the function of the rocket stage. One item that the engineers decided they could include was the floors of the workshop. How­ever, solid floors could not be used, since they would impede the flow of fuel through the tank. As a result, special floors were designed with a grid pattern that would allow fuel to flow through them.

When the switch was made from the wet workshop to the dry, the grid – pattern floors were no longer needed for their original purpose. However, the design was kept for the dry workshop because it was realized that the grid could serve another purpose as well, solving one of the challenges of life in microgravity. The Skylab astronauts were given special sneakers that had triangular fittings attached to their soles. These pieces would fit into the tri­angles that made up the floor’s grid pattern and lock in place with a small rotation of one’s foot. This allowed the crewmembers to stand in place on the floor without the help of gravity.

Finally, one would reach the farthest point from the Command Module, the bottom “story” of the Orbital Workshop. This was the primary living area of the space station and included its bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen, and gym. This area was divided into four major areas: the sleep compartments, the waste-management compartment, the wardroom, and the experiment volume.

Skylab had three sleep compartments, one for each of the astronauts aboard at any time. To make the most of the available space, the beds were arranged vertically in the quarters. Without gravity to keep a sleeper in place, the beds were essentially sleeping bags with extra slits and a vent to make them more comfortable. These were mounted on an aluminum frame with a firm sheet of plastic stretched within it to serve as a “mattress.” A privacy curtain took the place of a door at the entrance to each “bedroom.” Also in each sleep compartment were storage lockers, in which crewmembers could keep their personal items, and an intercom for communications.

The intercoms in the sleep quarters were among several located around the station, which served a dual purpose—they allowed communication both with the ground and throughout the station. Because of the low air pressure on Skylab, sound did not carry far, which could make it difficult to be heard in other parts of the station.

Voice communications with the ground were carried out in two major ways. The primary means of communication was the A Channel, which was used for real-time conversations with Mission Control. The other was в Channel, which was recorded on an onboard tape recorder and periodi­cally “dumped” to the ground and transcribed. This allowed the astronauts to pass along their thoughts about such things as habitability issues on Sky­lab, things that were not urgent but were needed for future reference. The crews were given questionnaires about aspects of life aboard the station and would dictate their answers into the intercom on в Channel.

For Project Mercury, NASA had to quickly develop a worldwide satellite­tracking network so that voice communications, data from spacecraft sys­tems, and commands from the ground could be sent and received. Stations were placed in exotic locations such as Zanzibar and Kano, Nigeria — often with help from the State Department — and were staffed by small teams of NASA employees and contractors. There was no real-time communication between Mission Control and most of these stations; data was relayed via leased commercial phone lines, undersea cables, and radios.

Capability of the system was continuously upgraded during the Gemini program. By the time Apollo 7 flew in late 1968, satellite relay of voice and data permitted Houston to communicate directly with the spacecraft; the remote-site teams were called home, and a unique travel experience disap­peared. But communication was still only via the transmitters and receiv­ers at the tracking stations.

The system inherited by Skylab was called the “Spacecraft Tracking and Data System.” It consisted of twelve stations: Bermuda, Grand Canary island, Ascension Island, St. Johns (Newfoundland), Madrid, Carnarvon and Hon­eysuckle Creek (Australia), Guam, Hawaii, Goldstone (California), Cor­pus Christi (Texas), Merritt Island (Florida), plus the ship Vanguard off the east coast of South America, and sometimes an aircraft (call sign aria) used to fill gaps during launch and reentry. As a result, communication between Skylab and Houston took place only in the brief passes over these stations, often interspersed by an hour or more of silence. The crew could tell where they were around the world by Houston’s calls — “Skylab, Houston, with you at Guam for eight minutes.”

To the left of the sleep compartments was the waste-management com­partment. This room featured a water dispenser that was the microgravity equivalent of a sink, a mirror for personal hygiene, and, of course, the space toilet. The Skylab mission required a level of innovation in this area not achieved in previous spaceflights. While the bag-based system used on pre­vious spaceflights for defecation had not been particularly pleasant, there was not really room on the smaller vehicles for a better means of dealing with the issue. For the comparatively short durations of those missions, it was something that astronauts simply had to bear.

Skylab, however, involved both a long-enough duration to merit finding a better solution as well as the space needed to provide one. For urination, the crewman stood in front of the collection facility with his feet beneath straps to hold himself in place. He urinated directly into a funnel with modest air­flow drawing urine into individual collection bags, one for each crewman. For defecation, he rotated about 180 degrees and seated himself on a small chair on the wall, rather like a child’s potty chair. But here a plastic bag had been placed beneath the seat for each use, which maintained a simple and hygienic “interface” with the astronaut. A lap belt and handholds were pro­vided to allow the user to stay in one place. As with the urine system, air­flow took on some of the role that gravity would play on Earth. An innova­tive feature of the fecal collection system allowed these bags to be placed in a heating unit after mass measurement, then exposed to the vacuum, which dried their contents completely. It was then much lighter and quite hygienic. The dried feces and samples of the urine were saved and returned to Earth for post-mission analysis.

To the left of the waste-management compartment was the wardroom, the station’s combination kitchen, dining, and meeting room. (Explained Kerwin: “Why was it called the wardroom? Because the first crew was all­Navy, and they got to name stuff. The wardroom is the officers’ dining and meeting room in a Navy ship.”) In the center of the room was Skylab’s high-tech kitchen table. Its round center was surrounded by three leaves, one for each crewmember. The flat surface of each of the leaves was actu­ally a lid, which could be released with the push of a button. Underneath the lids were six holes in which food containers could be placed, three of which could be heated to warm food. The trays had magnets for holding utensils in place. The table also featured water dispensers, which could pro­vide diners with both hot and cold water. Both thigh constraints and foot loops on the deck provided means for the astronauts to keep themselves in place while eating.

The walls of the wardroom were lined with stowage lockers and with a small refrigerator-freezer for food storage. The wardroom was one of the most popular places on Skylab for spending time—partially because it had the largest window on Skylab, which could be used for Earth – or star-gazing.

The largest portion of the bottom floor was the experiment area, which was home to several of the major medical experiments. The Lower Body Negative Pressure experiment was a cylindrical device, which an astronaut would enter, legs first, until the lower half of his body was inside. After a pressure seal was made around his waist, suction would then decrease the pressure against his lower body relative to the atmospheric pressure around his upper torso. The pressure difference would cause more blood to pool in his lower extremities, simulating the conditions he would experience when he returned to Earth and gravity caused a similar effect.

Also in the experiment volume was the ergometer, essentially a wheelless exercise bicycle modified for use in microgravity. Like its Earthbound equiv­alents, the ergometer featured pedals, a seat, and handlebars, but it was also equipped with electronics equipment for biomedical monitoring.

The Metabolic Analyzer was used with the ergometer to monitor the crew’s respiration. The device itself was a rectangular box with a hose connected to a mouthpiece. The user would put on a nose clip and then breathe in and out through the mouthpiece. The analyzer could not only measure respira­tion rate and breath volume but also, via a mass spectrometer, the composi­tion of the air he exhaled and thus oxygen consumption and carbon diox­ide production.

Another experiment in that area of the workshop was the Human Vestib­ular Function device, which was basically a rotating chair. With an astro­naut sitting in it, the chair could be rotated about the axis of the subject’s spine at speeds up to thirty revolutions per minute, either clockwise or coun­terclockwise. The purpose of the experiment was to test how their vestibu­lar systems (responsible for balance and detection of rotation and gravity) adapted to the microgravity environment. The experiment had been per­formed with the astronauts on the ground to provide a baseline and was per­formed again in orbit for comparative results.

Another major item located in the experiment room was only an experi­ment in the broadest sense—that life on Skylab was all part of research into long-duration spaceflight habitability factors. Because of the way the low­er deck was divided and because the shower was a later addition to the sta­tion’s equipment, the shower was instead located in the larger, open experi­ment area instead of being located in the waste-management facility, which in other respects was Skylab’s bathroom.

Water posed a potential hazard in Skylab. In weightlessness water would coalesce into spheres, which could float around the spacecraft. If they weren’t collected, they presented the risk that they could get into electronic devic­es or other equipment and cause damage. Small amounts of water could be easily managed, but large amounts were generally avoided in spaceflight. To wash their hands, for example, astronauts would squirt water into a cloth and then clean their hands with it rather than putting the water directly on their hands.

The shower provided means for a true spaceflight luxury. In it, astronauts could clean themselves in a manner that, while not quite the same as the way they would shower on Earth, was much closer. They would pull a cylindri­cal curtain up around themselves and then squirt warm water directly on their bodies using a handheld spray nozzle. Confined within the curtain, the water posed no risk to the spacecraft and after the shower could be cleaned up with towels or a suction device. The crews found the suction it provided inadequate for drying off completely and so used lots of towels. Nevertheless,

A Tour of Skylab

15- Lousma demonstrates Skylab’s shower.

at least one crewmember thought this “luxury” was both unnecessary and a gross waste of time.

At the center of this lowest floor of Skylab, the very opposite point from where the tour began, was the Trash Airlock. The s-ivb stage from which Skylab was modified had two tanks that originally would have been used to store the propellant: a larger tank for the fuel, liquid hydrogen, and a small­er tank for the oxidizer, liquid oxygen. The entire manned volume of the workshop was inside the stage’s liquid hydrogen tank. The liquid oxygen tank, which was exposed to vacuum, was used for trash storage. Between the two was an airlock that was used to transfer trash into the storage area. The oxygen tank was vented to space, creating a vacuum that helped pull the trash through, but it had a screen to prevent any trash from escaping. The arrangement meant that the waste generated on Skylab was stored safe­ly instead of becoming orbital debris.

The Homesteaders

The nine astronauts selected to serve on the Skylab flight crews represented three different demographics. Only two, Alan Bean and Pete Conrad, had flown in space before. Three of them, Owen Garriott, Ed Gibson, and Joe Kerwin, were members of the first group of scientist astronauts NASA had selected. The remaining four, Jerry Carr, Jack Lousma, Bill Pogue, and Paul Weitz, were unflown pilot astronauts.

The Moonwalkers

Not only were Bean and Conrad the only two flown astronauts on the Sky – lab flight crews, they had flown their last mission together; on it, the two had walked on the moon.

With three previous spaceflights under his belt, Pete Conrad was far and away the senior member of the three Skylab crews. Born in June 1930 in Phil­adelphia, Conrad at an early age developed a love of flying. After earning a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering from Princeton, Conrad pur­sued that love as a naval aviator. He went on to earn a place at “Pax River,” the Navy Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, Maryland, where he served as a test pilot, flight instructor, and performance engineer.

It was there that Conrad first applied to become an astronaut in the ini­tial selection process that brought in the original Mercury Seven. Though he was not selected in that round, the experiences of friends who were chosen inspired him to try again, and in 1962 Conrad was named as part of NASA’s second class of astronauts, a group of nine men that also included Neil Arm­strong, Frank Borman, Jim McDivitt, Jim Lovell, Elliot See, Tom Stafford, Ed White, and John Young.

His first spaceflight came three years later when he served as pilot of the third manned Gemini mission in August 1965, commanded by Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper. Gemini 5 was to have a mission length of eight days, the first of two times in his life that Conrad would set a new space­flight duration record.

The Homesteaders

4- Members of the first Skylab crew: (from left) Joe Kerwin, Pete Conrad, and Paul Weitz.

Just over a year later, Conrad moved up to a command of his own, flying the Gemini ii mission with pilot Dick Gordon in September 1966. The sec – ond-to-last Gemini mission, flown just months before manned Apollo flights were then scheduled to begin, Gemini 11 was intended to gain more expe­rience with rendezvous and extravehicular activity (eva), two areas which would be vital for Apollo.

When Conrad flew again three years later, the success of Apollo was a fait accompli. Four months earlier nasa had fulfilled Kennedy’s mandate “of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth” before the decade was out. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had become the first and second men on the moon on 20 July 1969, and next it was Conrad’s turn. The Apollo 12 mission reunited Commander Conrad with Command Mod­ule pilot Gordon, and Bean joined the two as Lunar Module pilot. On 19 November Conrad and Bean left Gordon in lunar orbit and touched down on the surface. As he became the third man to walk on the moon, Conrad referenced Armstrong’s famous “That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind” line in his own first words on another world: “Whoopee! Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but that’s a long one for me.”

Alan Bean was born in 1932 in Wheeler, Texas. Like Conrad, Bean earned

his bachelor’s degree (in aeronautical engineering at the University of Tex­as) and followed that with service in the Navy, having been in Reserve Offi­cer Training Corps (rotc) while in college. After a four-year tour of duty, Bean also attended Navy Test Pilot School and then flew as a test pilot of naval aircraft.

He was selected as an astronaut in NASA’s third group in October 1962—a class almost as large as both of its predecessors combined—along with Buzz Aldrin, Bill Anders, Charles Bassett, Gene Cernan, Roger Chaffee, Michael Collins, Walt Cunningham, Donn Eisele, Ted Freeman, Dick Gordon, Rusty Schweickart, David Scott, and C. C. Williams.

Bean’s first crew assignment was as backup for Gemini 10, along with C. C. Williams. While his crewmate preceded him in getting an Apollo assign­ment, as backup for Apollo 9, that slot went to Bean after Williams’s death in a crash of one of the T-38 jets used by the astronaut corps. From that assign­ment, Bean rotated up to the prime crew (the flight crew, as opposed to the backup crew) of Apollo 12.

It was his participation in the Apollo 12 mission with Pete Conrad that led to their joint involvement in Skylab. Bean had previously worked on Apollo Applications, supporting the program as a ground assignment while wait­ing to be placed on a crew. He served as the astronaut head of aap until he became a member of Conrad’s backup crew for Apollo 9. After transferring from aap to Apollo, Bean maintained his interest in the program and kept up with its development (noting with approval, for example, the change from the wet workshop to the dry).

Alan Bean recalled the decision to pursue a Skylab mission: “We were starting to talk about what we wanted to do; this was on the flight home from the moon. Dick wanted to stay in Apollo because we knew we were cycling threes, so he could be commander of Apollo 18. [Under the regular rotation, an astronaut, after a mission, would skip two missions, be on the backup crew for the third, skip two more, and then be on the “prime” crew for the next mission.] First, we decided we’d divvy up every flight, and we’d swap around. This was Pete: Dick would be the commander of the next one, and the three of us would run the space program. But then as we got to talking about it, Pete wanted to do Skylab. And we both felt that we didn’t want it to get crowded, other people deserved chances too. So we thought, well, we’ll try to be part of Skylab.

“So Pete says, ‘That looks like it’d be a good thing to do, looks like it’d be fun.’ I don’t think Dick was interested. A lot of the astronauts weren’t inter­ested in flying for twenty-eight days or fifty-six days. We were; we thought it’d be good adventure.

“I never did go and see Deke. I should have done it, but I never did it. But Pete went over and talked with him. It seems to me the announcement in the meeting of me and Owen and Jack [as a crew for Skylab] was a sur­prise to me, or maybe Deke phoned me and said this is what is going to be announced. But he didn’t consult me about Owen and Jack. It turned out great. We ended up with the best crew, no doubt about it.”

After Apollo 12 the three members of its crew were sent by nasa on a good­will tour of the world, and upon returning Bean and Conrad transferred from Apollo to Skylab. In addition to their common background as moon­walking spaceflight veterans, the first two Skylab commanders shared anoth­er trait as well. Each has been described by members of their Skylab crew as being one of the most motivated men in the astronaut corps. In Conrad’s case a lifelong drive to succeed had been increased by his rejection from the Mercury astronaut selection. “Pete was rejected, and the basis for his rejec­tion was a psychiatric evaluation that he was psychologically unsuited for long-duration space missions,” Kerwin recalled in an oral history inter­view for Johnson Space Center in 2000. “So here’s Conrad; he’s gone to the moon, he’s up here in Skylab with us on the first-ever long-duration space station mission, and he’s saying, ‘I’ll show that son of a gun who’s psycho­logically unsuited for what!’

“So he was very motivated to do a great job on Skylab. Just the kind of commander you want. He exercised more than we did and kept us all up to a very high level, even coming home. He said, ‘Guys, we’re going to walk out of this spacecraft. There’s going to be none of this carrying us out on stretchers stuff. . . . When that hatch opens, I’m outta here, and I want you guys to follow me.’” Bean’s drive was an extremely important factor in the direction the second Skylab mission took. Owen Garriott said that a major reason for the incredibly high productivity of his crew was that “We had one guy that was better motivated than anybody in the astronaut office.”

Despite having accomplished things as a Navy test pilot and astronaut that many other people only aspire to, Bean continually pushed himself further. Even during his days in the astronaut corps, Bean was a devotee of motivational tapes. Three decades after the time of Skylab, Bean contin­ues to listen to the tapes, still working to motivate himself to accomplish all he can, to be the best he can. When his spaceflight days were behind him, Bean channeled that drive into his devotion to capture in his paintings the emotional aspects of his unique experiences. “I’ve always had a point of view that you don’t have to be the smartest person, or the healthiest, or the brightest person to really do good work,” Bean said. “I’ve never felt like I was that, but I always felt like I could do good work. Like these paintings, I never was the best artist in class, but I can do better art than anybody that was ever in any of my classes because I just keep doing it.”

Dick Gordon, who flew with both men on the Apollo 12 mission, declined to speculate as to which was the more motivated, saying only that each was very motivated in his own way and that each had his own distinctive lead­ership style. He added, “If the space program doesn’t motivate you, you’re in the wrong place.”

Ten Days in May

It’s interesting when you stop and think about it,
how you get thrust very unexpectedly into an environment that
a few years later is the apex of your career.

You were doing stuff that had never been done before,
and you were successful.

Jim Splawn

“Eighteen days before launch—let’s see, that would be April 26—the Sky – lab 2 crew entered quarantine and started eating our carefully measured flight-type diets,” Joe Kerwin recalled. “That meant saying goodbye to our wives and families and moving into a couple of trailers on jsc property. Yes, we missed our families, but the arrangement was efficient, and we were in peak concentration mode. Nobody could come near us without a brief physical exam and a surgical mask. Launch readiness was everything. One of us recalled Coach Vince Lombardi’s famous and often misinterpreted quote about football: ‘Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.’ He did not mean that football was more important than God, country, or fami­ly, just that on Sunday afternoon, you should not be thinking of that oth­er stuff. That’s where we were. It was a good, team feeling; I remember all six of us [the prime crew of Conrad, Kerwin, and Weitz and their backups, Rusty Schweikart, Story Musgrave, and Bruce McCandless] standing out­side the trailer each evening at bedtime, joking as we filled our urine spec­imen bottles for science.”

By launch morning the uncertainties of the Skylab program had practically vanished. All the battles that had been fought to improve the hardware and

procedures were over. Chris Kraft, jsc director, had called the first crew in to his office about a month earlier to tell them to knock off trying to change the medical experiments and start working to accomplish them; and Com­mander Pete Conrad had been able to say that they were already there. Train­ing was over. They felt confident of their abilities and trusted the team. The crew and NASA were ready to fly and had no premonition of disaster. “You could say Fate had us right where she wanted us,” Kerwin said.

With only one day left on the countdown for their own launch, the crew watched from the roof of the Manned Spaceflight Operations Building the Skylab station launch on a beautiful May morning. The Saturn v rose slowly and majestically from the pad and disappeared into the eastern sky. The launch looked good. They went back down the stairs to the crew quar­ters conference room, where the flight director voice loop from Houston’s Mission Control was set up so that they could listen to the activation activ­ities as they lunched and did a last-minute review of the next day—their launch day.

According to Owen Garriott, “May 14, 1973, was a beautiful day at the Cape. All of the three planned Skylab crews, along with tens of thousands of space enthusiasts, were in attendance to watch what would be the final launch of NASA’s most powerful launch vehicle. It all appeared from the ground to go perfectly with a long, smoky trail headed into the blue sky.

“Jack [Lousma] and I headed back to our usual motel—Holiday Inn, Cocoa Beach—to change into flight suits and head for Patrick Air Force Base where our NASA T-38 was ready for a quick flight back to Ellington Air Force Base, near the Manned Spacecraft Center. We wanted to be home as soon as pos­sible to observe the Skylab telemetry and verify that our home to be was in good shape for human visitation and also to watch the launch of Pete, Joe, and Paul scheduled for the next morning from Mission Control.

“As we were walking out to our rental car for the short drive to Patrick, we noticed the recently appointed director of the Marshall Space Flight Cen­ter, Dr. Rocco Petrone, walking along the porch in front of his second sto­ry room. ‘Looked like a great launch,’ we shouted. ‘Yes, but don’t get your expectations too high. There were some telemetry glitches observed.’

“With no more time for discussion, we headed for our aircraft, hoping that the telemetry issues would be resolved by the time of our arrival in Houston. We could only speculate about what these ‘glitches’ were, never imagining

Ten Days in May

16. Skylab was launched as the third stage of a modified Saturn v rocket.

the problems to be encountered and then solved in the next ten days.” That apparently beautiful launch was when things started to fall apart. The problems didn’t surface all at once. There had been a “g spike” — a sud­den, brief shock to the vehicle—about forty-five seconds after launch as the Saturn booster was accelerating through the speed of sound. Around a min­ute after liftoff, and very near the time of “max-Q” when the atmospheric pressure on the speeding vehicle is at the maximum, telemetry received in Houston indicated the micrometeoroid shield had deployed prematurely,

an anomaly not fully appreciated as the Saturn kept going and deposited Skylab in the correct orbit.

Once the s-ivb stage was in orbit, a planned sequence began to reconfig­ure it from its launch mode to its operational arrangement. The first deploy­ment action was to jettison the “sla Panels,” four large panels that protect­ed the docking adapter and atm during launch. That action went well. The next sign that something was wrong began to surface as workshop temper­atures started to climb above normal, but the full extent of the problem was still not apparent, and the deployment appeared to be going well. Mission Control proceeded with the next scheduled step: rotating the atm ninety degrees to face the sun and opening its four solar panels into their “wind­mill” configuration. That too went smoothly.

Then it was the turn of the Solar Array System, the main solar panels on the workshop itself. First the Solar Array System beams, the solar panel housings, would be deployed to ninety-degree angles from the workshop; then the panels themselves would unfold accordion-style. Fully open they would provide two-thirds of Skylab’s electrical power. And after they were open, the thermal/meteoroid shield over which they’d been folded (the “heat shield”) could itself be popped up away from the workshop’s exterior sur­face to assume its function of reflecting the sun’s heat and breaking up small meteoroids. The beams did not deploy. And the workshop surface and inter­nal temperatures continued to climb. Something was wrong with the heat shield, which should have kept the workshop cool even before deployment. Mission Control went into troubleshooting mode.

By late afternoon they finally realized the truth: the heat shield was gone. That G spike during launch had been the shield departing the vehicle. The anomalous telemetry had been completely accurate. Further there was no response at all from Solar Panel 2, indicating that it was probably gone as well. Solar Panel 1 was showing just a trickle of current, leading controllers to believe it was still present but stuck shut. NASA was soliciting high-reso­lution photography from other satellites and ground-based telescopes.

While the full import of what had taken place would take some time to pin down exactly, it became very apparent very quickly that something very bad had happened. For those involved in the program, 14 May would be an unforgettable day; many can still recall what they were doing when they learned that what had looked like a perfect launch had in fact been anything but and that years’ worth of work was in real danger of being lost. Mar­shall Skylab program director Lee Belew remembers that he was at Kenne­dy Space Center that day, having traveled down there to watch the launch. One particular memory that has stuck with him over the years since was being grilled by the national media for answers that were still unknown. “I was interviewed by Walter Cronkite at the Cape, and of course, he asked pretty tough questions.”

Phil Shaffer was in Mission Control at Johnson Space Center. He was not actually on duty; he was scheduled for a shift as flight director for launch and rendezvous the following day, overseeing the launch of the first crew. “Don Puddy was the flight director for the workshop launch,” he said. “Because I was going to sit down to launch sl-2 [with the first crew] the next day, I was there, more than willing to be a ‘gofer’ for him. When the telemetry just went nuts and those pieces started coming off, we didn’t know what had happened except that a lot of things we were seeing from telemetry didn’t make any sense. We certainly hadn’t seen anything like that in any of the simulations. We got to orbit, and Don started trying to get the post-insertion sequence to work. Many of the actions he was trying to get done involved equipment that was missing now. It wasn’t working, and the instrumentation was so screwed up we really couldn’t tell what was going on. Then additional unex­pected things began to happen on orbit, began to not work. Probably the best thing I did for anybody that day was start a malfunction list. Puddy didn’t have time for it. Two or three hours into the business, Gene Kranz leaned over the console and said, ‘You guys better start a malfunction list.’ I told him, ‘Here it is; it’s got forty-seven items on it, or some number like that, things that need to be pursued.’ So at that point we were stalled out on the post-insertion activation sequence. And stuff just kept failing, and we could see it was beginning to get hot inside Skylab.”

Though things looked grim, Shaffer had a moment that night of being able to view the Skylab in a more positive light. “I remember distinctly, the night of the day of Skylab i launch, I knew it was going to come over Hous­ton,” he said. “And I went out to look for the ‘string of pearls’ as it had been advertised—the [booster’s second stage] stage, the sla panels, the refrigera­tor cover, and the Skylab itself. There it was, a big ol’ string of pearls, going across the sky. Outstanding. Beautiful. It was really spectacular. It was a crystal-clear night in Houston, and I watched it for a very long time, almost from horizon to horizon.”

As controllers began to determine what the problems meant for the work­shop, the first crew realized what it meant for them: they weren’t going to Skylab the next morning. Instead they were going back to Houston. Ken – win recalls that his family and friends were having a prelaunch party at the Patrick Air Force Base Officers’ Club in Melbourne. “I called my wife and told her the news. ‘No launch tomorrow. But might as well keep partying!’” The next morning the crew manned their T-38 jets at Patrick and flew back to Houston. They joined a full-scale battle in progress: the NASA/contrac – tor engineering workforce versus Skylab’s problems.

As it happened, the high atmospheric forces near “max-Q” had caused the shield to be torn off the Workshop and drop into the Atlantic Ocean, all unseen from the ground. “Max-Q is a very dangerous, peculiar place, and the pressures are really peculiar at that point and shock waves all over the place,” Shaffer said. “If something is going to come undone, that’s where everybody says it’s going to come undone.” And to make matters worse the meteoroid shield also tore one of the workshop solar arrays completely off, dropping it into the ocean as well. The second workshop solar array had a different story. In this case the departing shield caused a metal strap to wrap across the array, which turned out to likely have been a blessing in disguise. On the one hand the strap caught the array and prevented it from deploy­ing properly, leading to severe power limitations after launch. On the other hand, the strap held the array in place during the launch so that it couldn’t be ripped off too, a life-saving event for the Skylab science program, which needed the power the array would later be able to generate.

“We knew quickly something was wrong, that’s for sure,” said Marshall’s George Hardy, who had gone down to Houston to monitor the launch and ended up staying there for much of the time before the first crew launched, serving essentially as a liaison between the operations team in Houston and the engineering team at msfc. “We knew there’d been a failure of the heat shield to deploy, or to properly deploy. We weren’t quite sure about that. Because there weren’t any extensive strain gauges and instrumentation and things like that on it that, we couldn’t pinpoint a structural problem of some kind exactly. But we knew that it wasn’t functioning properly. We weren’t getting thermal protection. It was a battle for the first days.”

That battle was fought on several fronts. First was keeping the vehicle in shape for the crew’s arrival, whenever that would be. (The orbit of Skylab

Ten Days in May

yj. The exterior of the Orbital Workshop, stripped of its heat shield, began to bake in the solar radiation.

passed directly over the Kennedy Space Center every five days, so launch opportunities would be at five-day intervals after the original 15 May launch date.)

Skylab’s only source of power was the atm solar panels, and every watt was needed, which meant keeping the atm pointed straight at the sun. But with the heat shield gone, pointing at the sun was the worst direction for work­shop temperatures. It was 130 degrees Fahrenheit inside the workshop. The results of the high temperature could be disastrous: food might spoil; nox­ious chemicals might outgas from the walls; batteries and other equipment might be degraded. The materials lab at Marshall had conducted a tempera­ture overtest on the substances used inside the workshop to make sure there wouldn’t be an outgassing problem if temperature exceeded nominal levels but had only run the test up to over 100 degrees. After the loss of the heat shield, they resumed their testing, this time at higher temperatures.

The flight controllers battled this dilemma for ten days. With no pana­cea for the conflicting problems of heat and attitude available, those days were filled with constant compromise between the dual concerns. They’d roll Skylab away from the sun, to keep the temperatures from increasing. Power would drop, battery charge decrease, and a roll back toward the sun would have to happen.

The question of controlling the station’s attitude was further complicat­ed by its means of attitude control. Skylab had the three large momentum wheels, like large gyroscopes, called “Control Moment Gyros.” By order­ing the cmg’s electrical system to push against the gimbals of one or more of these cmg momentum wheels, it was possible to move the direction in space in which Skylab was pointed, thanks to the principle of conservation of angular momentum. So it was easy enough to change the station’s direc­tion. But when this was done, other small forces were encountered (techni­cally called “gravity gradient forces”) that tended to drive Skylab’s attitude in another direction, perhaps opposite of the one desired. This problem was not so easily solved and required firing the cold gas jets in space to hold the desired attitude. Further complicating the matter, the amount of cold nitro­gen gas was strictly limited, and if this procedure were to continue for too many days, perhaps twenty or thirty, all the gas would be expended and attitude control would be lost. So a fix was needed in rather short order to save the Skylab missions.

For ten days mission controllers worked constantly to preserve the del­icate balances needed to keep the station fit for when its first crew arrived. Over half the supply of the nitrogen gas for the entire mission was used in these ten days. “It was ironic,” Hardy said. “There was a preferred orienta­tion for generating electric power. However, it turns out that most of the time that was the most adverse orientation for the workshop overheating and for drag.

“It was management of the orientation of the workshop on a continual basis, going to one particular attitude knowing that it was penalizing you in some areas. But you had to do that, and you figure out how long you have to stay there and then get back in the other attitude. It was a real balanc­ing act between those three things. The operations people did a fantastic job in that, and of course we loved the great engineering team. There were real questions about whether the batteries would actually survive that kind of cycling. We just started cycling, and I guess we learned a lot of things.” But they kept Skylab alive.

The second front of the battle to save Skylab was finding a way to erect a substitute for the heat shield. The spacecraft, its contents, and any crew just could not tolerate those temperatures. And whatever NASA came up with, they had to be quick about it. The longer launch was postponed, the less likely it was that Skylab would remain salvageable.

Engineering teams were formed at NASA centers across the country and told to forget the paperwork for a while. “It was an opportunity for some imagination,” Shaffer said. “It was an environment where if you had a good idea, it was really easy to get it executed, ’cause all of the energy was there to do that.” The astronauts from the later Skylab missions and the back­up crews were sent out to the centers to provide an operations viewpoint for the efforts.

“I remember leaving the launch site and coming back to the Holiday Inn,” Jack Lousma said. “I met Ed Gibson and Julie, and they had more word than I did. They were somewhat disappointed and discouraged. I was thinking, at least the Skylab is up there, and even though it’s not perfect, there’s proba­bly something we can do about it; at least it’s up there. I had no other knowl­edge, and no one else did either. I didn’t know what the extent of the dam­age was, or if I should feel confident that something could be salvaged. But I knew at least it was up there. And that was somewhat heartening.

“I went on to Houston because they hadn’t figured out what the problem was for a short period of time. I wasn’t there long, because we had to find out what was wrong with the Skylab and figure out what to do about it. I remember coming to work one morning, and Al Shepard said ‘I want you to go to Langley and help them develop one of the fixes for the thermal shield.’ I didn’t go home, I didn’t get any clothes, I didn’t do anything, I just got in a T-38 and flew there directly. I spent about three days there and worked all day and all night with those guys at Langley to develop one of the concepts that was being proposed. This was an inflatable structure [inspired by an ear­lier communications satellite design], where it was a very lightweight mate­rial that would be shaped in the form of a covering, and it would be inflat­ed when it got up there. It was all this silvery material.

“I think we [would have] extended it out the airlock, but I could be cor­rected on that. I don’t remember there being any external tie downs, or anything like that, that we developed. But anyway they had fabricated one of those very quickly, and started the inflation, and tried to deal with those engineering difficulties, and finally made it work. I introduced my crew comments on it as we went along on how to make sure the crew could actu­ally do it and be able to get it to operate.

“But my conclusion after being there for two or three days was that it was not going to be a satisfactory fix. It was too vulnerable to losing its inflation; the dynamics of its inflation and spreading over the workshop were mar­ginal in my estimation. So all of us rendezvoused down at the Cape direct­ly after that. All of us went to the Cape and met with Pete’s crew. I sat and listened to all of the presentations of the fixes that were available, and then I told them that I didn’t think that the one I was working on had top prior­ity. They could make up their own minds, but here’s what I thought about it. It wasn’t one of the ones that went through.”

After all the work was done and all the ideas were brought together and reviewed, three solutions seemed feasible. All three ended up being launched, and two were used.

From the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, a cloth sunshade that would be deployed by flying the Command and Service Module from point to point around the workshop, while the crew would unfold it and secure it to structure. Installation would be feasible but tricky. This one was not used.

From the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, the “Marshall Sail” (also known as the Twin-Pole Sunshade), designed to be deployed by a pair of astronauts during a spacewalk after docking with and activating Skylab, using the Skylab airlock. A solid and elegant solution, it was deployed over the original parasol a few months later by the second crew to extend the life of the parasol’s delicate aluminized Mylar reflective covering material.

From Houston, a “Solar Parasol” (or “jsc Parasol” or just “the para­sol”) — a large square of thin nylon cloth attached to four spring-loaded fish­ing poles and packed in a long metal canister. As luck would have it, there was the Scientific Airlock built into the wall of the workshop on the sun­pointing side. It was designed to allow astronomy and materials experiments in pressure-tight canisters to be pushed right out into vacuum to take their observations. The parasol made some investigators unhappy by monopoliz­ing that airlock for the entire mission. But it played an essential role in sav­ing Skylab, being a quick, safe solution to the heat problem. It was invent­ed by Jack Kinzler.

Ten Days in May

i8. Jack Kinzier (secondfrom right) explains his parasol concept.

Jack Kinzier graduated from South Hills High School in Pittsburgh in 1938. He was hired at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics’ Lan­gley Research Center in 1941 as a journeyman toolmaker. His skills earned him multiple promotions, and in 1961 he was assigned to the Manned Space­craft Center in Houston as chief of the Technical Services Division. He nev­er got a college degree, but his “equivalent in experience” was worth at least a master’s in mechanical engineering.

“Different groups were working on sun shields deployed on spacewalks,” Kinzler recalled. “When I realized nobody thought about going inside and doing it the simple way, I thought, ‘Well, I’m going to look around some.’”

He found the experiment airlock on the sunny side of the station—he called it a “Sally Port”—in the trainer in Building 8. “So I had one of my techs go down to Houston and buy four fiberglass extendable fishing poles,” he said. “I drew up a hub with springs attached to the bottom of each pole. Then I had the sheet-metal shop roll up a tube about eight inches in diame­ter. I called up my parachute shop and said, ‘Get me a twenty-four-foot sec­tion of parachute cloth.’

“The machine shop fastened the four fishing rods to my base. I fastened

that base to the floor of our big high-bay shop area. We fastened the cloth to the rods and long lines to the tips of each rod. I lowered the big overhead crane to floor level and swung my four lines over the crane hook. Then I called Gilruth, and everybody came over for a demonstration. I said, ‘I think I’ve got something you’ll like.’

“So they were standing around thinking, ‘What’s Kinzler up to now?’ I raised the crane back up, letting out excess line ’til I had enough clearance, then let the crane pull all four lines simultaneously. It looked like a magi­cian’s act because out came these fishing rods, getting longer and longer. They’re dragging with them fabric. They get all the way to where they’re fully out, and all I did was let go and it went ‘sshum!’ So the springs were on each corner (and each spring pulled a pole outward and downward), and they came down and laid out right on the floor just perfectly. And everybody was impressed, I’ll tell you. They were impressed! So that concept—my con­cept —was chosen for the real thing.”

Kinzler and his techs gladly paid the price for success, working day and night for six days building the flight version (substituting thin nylon for the parachute cloth) and testing it. Afterward he got a lot of fan letters — and from NASA its highest decoration, the Distinguished Service Medal.

Many others were working on the problem at jsc. Ed Smylie, then chief of the Crew Systems Division, remembered: “We constructed an umbrella that would deploy like a flower petal, rather than like a traditional umbrel­la. We covered the assembly with a test canopy filled with holes to reduce air resistance during our deployment tests. On the initial test it worked perfectly. I invited NASA management to review our design. Most of senior management from Johnson, Marshall, and headquarters joined us. Upon deployment the frame twisted itself out of shape and failed completely. The managers shook their heads and went away. When I asked my crew what happened, they said they thought the spring was too weak and installed a stronger spring.

“Shortly after, I had a call; I should abandon our design and support Max Faget [director of engineering at Johnson] in the design of the chosen approach. As I recall, the frame was constructed in the jsc fabrication shop under the direction of Jack Kinzler and Dr. Faget. I can remember work­ing with Max laying out the frame on the floor of the shop in the middle of the night. Max turned to me and said, “Isn’t this fun?” I had not thought of it that way, but he was right. There was intense pressure, but it was a fun kind of pressure.”

Ed shared the fun and the pressure with his key engineers — Jim Correale, Larry Bell, Harley Stutesman, Joe McMann, and others. He set up a clear­inghouse called “Action Central.” All elements of the center used it for get­ting things done quickly. One of his branch chiefs took it upon himself to charter a Learjet to move supplies as needed around the country.

“Everybody was working horrendous hours, and towards the end of those ten days one of my branch chiefs was leaving Building 7A one evening, and as he walked out the back door he simply collapsed,” Smylie recalls. “He was not injured, but his system had simply shut down.

“The briefing of the Skylab 1 crew was held in the ninth-floor confer­ence room [of the main building at Johnson, then called Building 2] after the crew had been quarantined. Everybody had to wear those little paint­er’s masks over their mouths and noses. It was quite a sight to see the astro­nauts, senior management, engineers, and industry types—over a hundred of them—crowded together in that room around the huge table, all wearing those little white masks. After an hour or so everyone’s masks were getting damp and hard to breathe through, so people started moving the masks a little bit and sneaking breaths. Then Pete Conrad stuck a cigar out the side of his mouth and commenced to smoke it—still keeping the mask on his face. Soon everyone was moving the masks away from their mouths so they could breathe. They started wearing them over their ears, on top of their heads, anywhere—but no one took off their mask!”

While the Houston-designed parasol had the advantage of being easy to deploy and thus providing a quick fix to the heating problem, Bob Schwing – hamer, who was the head of the Marshall materials lab, had concerns about its long-term durability. “I was afraid of that because I had run these tests about building the flag, and I knew the nylon wouldn’t stand up very long.” Schwinghamer was also concerned that the station’s TACS thrusters would damage the thin material when they fired. “What if it rips or comes apart totally?”

“For the Marshall Sail, I had used that same rip-stock nylon material, and I had a material called S-13G, which was a thermal-control material, real nice white stuff, very highly reflective,” he said. “When you sprayed it on that sail parachute material, it still had high flexibility. It wouldn’t flake

Ten Days in May

19. Seamstresses prepare the Marshall Sail sunshade.

off or anything. So we sprayed it with that, and I ran some ten-sun tests in the lab to see how long it would stand up, and we knew it would last for the Skylab mission.

“Then we had some Navy seals in; they packed it. We didn’t have a para­chute packer; they packed it. That thing was pretty big, it was like thirty by forty, I think. We got some seamstresses in from New Jersey to do the sew­ing. I remember that stuff was laying all over the floor, and they were just sewing away, and pulling that big sail through there. And we got that stuff all done in ten days, in time to fly.”

The failure of the micrometeoroid shield had come as a complete surprise to the Skylab engineering team, which had not foreseen even the possibility of its failure. “The meteoroid shield went through design reviews like all the other hardware did,” Hardy said. “There were known design requirements; there were some tests that were done. You couldn’t do a test that exposed it

directly to aerial loading and things like that, obviously. Nobody predict­ing a failure or anything like that. But like a lot of other things, after it hap­pened, you go back and look and see where you were deficient in your anal­ysis and some of your designs, but not prior to launch.

“McDonnell Douglas Huntington Beach was the prime contractor for the Orbital Workshop, which included the heat shield. But other contrac­tors were involved in design reviews and things like that. I don’t know, there could have been somebody out there that was expressing some concern that wasn’t taken into account. But if there was, it was almost after the fact, because I had no knowledge of that.”

While the rescue effort was underway, an investigation was started into the causes of the failure. The board of investigation was chaired by Bruce T. Lundin, director of NASA’s Lewis (now Glenn) Research Center and pre­sented its findings on 30 July. The board determined that the most proba­ble cause of the failure was pressurized air under the shield forcing the for­ward end of the shield away from the workshop and into the supersonic air stream, which tore the meteoroid shield from the workshop. The report stat­ed that this was likely due to flaws in the way the shield was attached to the workshop, which allowed in air.

The failure to recognize these issues during six years of development was attributed to a decision to treat the shield as a subsystem of the s-ivb, based on the presumption that it would be structurally integral to the tank. As a result, the shield was not assigned its own project engineer, who could have provided greater project leadership. In addition, testing focused on deploy­ment, rather than performance during launch. The board found no evidence that limitation of funds or schedule pressure were factors and that engineer­ing and management personnel on Skylab, both contractor and government, were highly experienced and adequate in number.

Resolving one final issue was absolutely essential to Skylab’s long-term success. It was to answer the questions “Is one of the solar array wings still there; what’s wrong with it; and how can we get it deployed?” Related to these were the further questions of how much the crew could do with atm power alone and how they would do it. Even if it were possible to deploy the remaining solar array wing, living off the atm power would be nec­essary when they arrived and until (and if) they got the solar panel open. The crew spent a lot of time with the flight planners, going through all the checklists, and marking them up for low-power operations. General con­clusions were:

With care and frugality, the crew could live in the workshop and do some of the experiments.

They should use lights sparingly and turn them off when they moved and not make coffee or heat food.

The solar physics and Earth resources work should be minimized. (The medical experiments were pretty low power users and ok.)

And so forth.

There was serious doubt that Skylab could go three missions like that or that it would be worth doing. One or two failures would put it out of busi­ness. The science return would be badly hurt. They had to get that solar panel out to save Skylab.

Some images had been obtained. They were blurry but showed that the solar panel was there. What was holding it shut would have to await inspec­tion after crew arrival. But the holdup must have to do with the ripped – off heat shield. Freeing the array would require a spacewalk. And the team had to select a suite of tools for the job right then without waiting for the inspection. Engineering did a superb job of outlining possible situations they might meet and finding a collection of tubes, ropes, and cutters to make up their tool kit.

And soon the decision was made that NASA couldn’t possibly be ready to launch on 20 May. The flight controllers said they could hold on another five days. So they aimed for 25 May, the next fifth-day opportunity to launch.

“I was in the flight operations management room at jsc at the launch on May 14 and spent about the first week down there,” George Hardy remembered. “After the first ten-twelve hours of meetings and looking at data, everybody was walking around with their heads down. I’d just come out of a meeting with Gene Kranz. I felt we’d bought the farm; we’d lost the mission. And Kranz said, ‘No, no, we’ll figure it out. We’ll figure out some way to get this thing done.’ That’s the sort of guy he was, still optimistic.

“The next seven to ten days was remarkable. I stayed down there with the first-line Marshall engineering support group. And, of course, we stayed in touch with what was going on at Marshall. But I got to see firsthand what the jsc folks were doing too. It was quite remarkable.

“We were getting all kinds of suggestions from the public. I still have, tucked away somewhere in shoeboxes or somewhere, letters that I got from people all over the world that had suggestions about what we might do.

“The other thing I remember, Chris Kraft had a meeting every morning in his conference room, and he accepted me in that conference room just like I was one of the jsc guys. We had the best working relationship you can imagine. There was no ‘invented here or there.’ Both centers worked aggres­sively to get their sun shield out, and both of them worked; both of them served their purpose. Those were good days, great days.

“That was something, the first seven days. It was actually ten days, but there was a movie about that time called ‘Seven Days in May,’ and Jim Kings­ley and I joked later about that. It turns out at that point in time we’d worked on Skylab about seven years, and we almost lost it, so we decided we were going to write a book called Seven Years in May.”

About a week after the launch, Hardy left jsc to return to Marshall and oversee his team there. He recalled that Rocco Petrone, who in January of that year had been brought to the center to serve as its new director, was very involved in the discussions about the status of Skylab. “Dr. Petrone would come by every morning and get a briefing on what was going on,” Hardy said. “He’d usually call sometime during the day. And he’d come by every after­noon. And every afternoon we’d have a briefing for him on every problem, all the plans for the next day and everything. He’d come by like six o’clock in the afternoon, and sometimes those briefings would last until midnight. You had to stay on top of it. At that particular time, initially, he hadn’t been [at msfc] but a very short time, and his wife wasn’t here, and he was living in an apartment, so he had a lot of time. He’d come over there and eat Ken­tucky Fried Chicken, or whatever it was we’d ordered for that night, and stay with us. A lot of times he’d stay five or six hours.”

Lee Belew had a similar recollection: “We worked day and night. I mean, absolutely day and night. With Rocco whipping us all the time. He was something else.”

Bob Schwinghamer was also at Kennedy Space Center for the launch. “I was down there on the fourteenth,” he said. “I had the family along for that launch. That was a big deal, Skylab. Right away we started hearing that the temperature was not the way it should be; and they concluded that some­thing had happened with the micrometeoroid shield and everything.

“I hung around the control room as long as I could down there. I final­ly went back to the motel and told everybody, ‘We’ve got to get out of here, and we’re going to leave very early, about three o’clock in the morning,’ and it was about nine or ten then. We drove all the way back, nonstop. And I got in sometime the next day—I don’t know exactly when—went over to Hose, which is where our control center was, and for the most part stayed around there. We started trying to figure out what might have happened, and what should we do.”

Like most at NASA’s manned spaceflight program at that time, Schwing- hamer has memories of long hours of hard work, and as with most at Mar­shall then, Rocco Petrone features prominently in those memories. “It was ten days and ten nights,” Schwinghamer said. “I didn’t go home the first three days. And then after that, Rocco would come in about ten o’clock at night all the time, eleven o’clock, ‘What kind of progress are we making?’ After we started building the sail, I had three teams for around-the-clock coverage on the sail, and I had a big chart in my office, and I had a guy that his responsibility was to log in the results: When did you paint? Have you inspected? All the steps were there, and they were logging them in as they occurred.

“And Rocco would come in at ten or eleven o’clock at night, and he’d say, ‘I’ll be back later.’ Well, hell, you didn’t know if later was in an hour, or two hours, or tomorrow morning. So the first three days, my deputy Gene Allen and I stayed all night. Finally on the third day, we looked at each other, with dark circles under our eyes, and I said, ‘Gene, I can’t keep this up.’ He said, ‘I can’t either.’ I said, ‘I’ll tell you what let’s do, let’s go on two twelves, and a little bit extra if it takes it, fifteen, maybe, or whatever. But nominally two twelve-hour shifts.’ Well, we did that after the first three days, and it worked out pretty good. Somebody was always there when Rocco showed up. Oh, he was tough on us. Oh, he was tough. But that’s what it took.”

Schwinghamer recalled that during the preparation of the sail, the process laboratory at Marshall insisted that they should be responsible for spraying the protective coat on it. He warned them that it would probably be more difficult to apply than they were anticipating and said that his materials lab could do it. “They said, ‘Ah, we can do anything,’ And I said, ‘All right go ahead, spray it.’ So I went over there, and it was about six o’clock, seven o’clock in the evening, and I was standing there, and it was the damnedest mess you ever saw. All of a sudden, somebody behind me says, ‘Did you guys ever make any flight hardware in this place?!’ It was Rocco, and he was mad­der than a hornet. It was a mess. He said, ‘Bob, you get everybody that has anything to do with this sail into your office; at eight o’clock tonight we’re going to decide how this gets done.’

“So I called Matt Sebile, the lab director in the process engineering depart­ment. I call him on the phone and he said, ‘Well, I’m cutting the grass, I’d like to get finished.’ I said, ‘I tell you what, I can’t tell you what to do; I’m just a division chief. But if I were you, I’d get my butt over here just as fast as I could.’ And he did, and he had ratty old Bermuda shorts on and dirty ten­nis shoes. At that eight o’clock meeting, Rocco says, ‘All right Schwingham – er, the sail’s your responsibility. J. R. [Thompson, head of crew systems at Marshall], you’re responsible for the deployment and how it gets used. Now get out of here, and get it done.’ Of all things, my dad came down to visit us from Indiana right in the middle of that. I said, ‘Dad, no fishing this time.’ He always used to come down, and I’d take him fishing one time.”

Despite the busy schedule, Schwinghamer did get to talk to his father, once, during the visit, while he “was home shaving one morning, and tak­ing a shower.” His father questioned why his son was spending so much time at work. “He said, ‘Are just you doing that?’ And I said, ‘No, everybody’s doing that.’ He said, ‘I can’t understand that.’ He was the superintendent of a chair factory up there in Indiana. He said ‘You know what, I couldn’t get my people to do that.’ I said, ‘Everybody’s doing that, not just me.’”

While Petrone loomed large in Marshall’s efforts during those ten days, he made at least one contribution of which he was utterly unaware. One eve­ning Schwinghamer found himself in need of some material used in the sail, which was only produced at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. Obviously simply ordering the material would have taken far too long; he had to have it right away. As happened often during the around-the-clock work, it was already into the evening when Schwinghamer discovered he needed the material.

“I wanted to get [the center’s] Gulfstream to go up and get that stuff so we’d be there at seven o’clock the next morning and could bring it home by noon the next day,” he said. “Of course, everybody was gone, and you couldn’t get the normal approvals. I tried to call some people at home to get approval to use the Gulfstream. I finally conned somebody — I don’t remember who,

I don’t wanna know—who would give me enough paper that I could go out there and say I need to take the Gulfstream. And we did that.

“And I kept thinking, ‘Rocco Petrone’s the director, if I get caught doing this, I’m done for.’ That would have been a little too far. But since it was at night, there was no call or request or requirement for the airplane, and we got by with it all right. Boy oh boy, that would have been very bad. I can tell you some center directors we had that I could have talked my way out of it, but I couldn’t have done it with him.”

The only-semi-authorized use of the center’s Gulfstream was practically by the book though, compared to another vehicle use Schwinghamer was involved in during that ten-day period. When he ran out of another materi­al he needed one evening, Schwinghamer called Tom McElmurry in Hous­ton for more at around 9:00 or 10:00 p. m. “I called him; I said, ‘Tom, I’ve got to have some of that damn material. Can you bring me some?’ And he said, ‘I think I can.’ He got here at midnight, I’ll never forget. He said, ‘Bob, I’m not flying back to Houston tonight. I’m going to get a hotel room. Can you get me a car?’

“I thought, ‘How am I going to get a car now?’ And then I thought, ‘Oh, the lab director’s got a car, and I know where they keep the key.’ The secretary always left the key under the desk. I said, ‘I’ll get you the lab director’s car.’ My thought was, he’s going to take off at six in the morning, and Heinberg wouldn’t come in until seven thirty, and I could get that car back, and he’d never know it was gone. But I worked all night, and I was getting pretty woozy. By that time in the morning, I didn’t think about the damn car any more. The car was sitting out at the Redstone strip.

“Heinberg comes in—the secretary told me this story—he looked through the Venetian blinds, and said, ‘Where the hell is my car?’ She said, ‘Mr. Heinberg, it’s in your parking place.’ He said, ‘You just come over here and look, and the car was gone.’

“So then they called all around, and they had the mps running around looking for the car with the license number and all that crap. And they finally found the car out there at the Redstone airstrip, and somebody out there, said ‘Yeah, Schwinghamer did that.’ So he called me up about ten o’clock that morning, I’ll never forget. And he said, ‘Schwinghamer, you know what, you’re totally irresponsible.” And he hung up. And I thought, ‘Oh, I’m fired.’”

There were several other occasions when the exigencies of the situation meant that protocol was waived in favor of expediency. “We had very strict rules about handling flight hardware,” Schwinghamer said. “You couldn’t just put that in the trunk of your car and drive off. This guy that worked for me had this big Ford van with just two seats in the front. I got so tired calling transportation and then having them show up four or five hours, or the next day, later. And I thought, ‘The hell with it.’ So every time we had to move [something], I’d get him and we’d put it all in the back of that big Ford van and move it.”

On one occasion, though, he had “unofficially” transported some flight hardware for a qualification check, and someone came back and told him it wasn’t working. “And I said, ‘What are you talking about? We checked that thing out ourselves here and it was working fine.’ So I went up there and said, ‘Nothing happened here, did it? I mean, when we moved it?’

“I looked around real carefully, and one corner of that cube was scrunched, and it had green tile in it. And they had green tile on the floor up there. I said, All right, this metal got yielded. I suspect it fell on that corner.’ Finally one guy broke down, and he started crying. He said, ‘I did it, I didn’t mean to.’ I’ll never forget, he was one of the best techs we had. I really hated that. I said, ‘Just forget about it. You get this thing going again, fix it, and I won’t say anything.’ I felt so bad, ’cause he was one of the best techs we had and that would have gotten him in a lot of trouble. And I had a little personal interest too: I thought, next thing you know, they’re going to start inquir­ing about how this stuff gets moved around. We were in it together, I do believe. He fixed everything up, and it worked fine.

“One night I needed something in that same building, and I got in before they closed everything, but I stayed too long, and then I couldn’t get out,” Schwinghamer recalled. “I had what I needed; it was two small parts. And I couldn’t get out. I thought, ‘If I call these damn security guys, they’ll be here in two hours or something. I’ll climb the fence.’ It was one of these fenc­es with that overhanging barbwire. I didn’t think about what the hell I’m going to do when I get up to the barbwire. I cut a big gash in my butt, and I fell off the fence and fell on the ground. It was about eight feet high. And just when I hit the ground, two headlights came on. These darned securi­ty guys drove up and slammed up the brakes and jumped out. One of their names was Miller; I knew him well, ’cause he had nailed me for speeding four or five times. He walked up there, and I’m lying on the ground, saying ‘Oh, my. . And he said, ‘Hell, I should have known it’d be you, Schwing – hamer.’ He didn’t do anything; he let me go. Boogered my butt too.”

“We didn’t let anything deter us in those days,” Schwinghamer said of the construction of the sail. “A lot of funny stuff happened on our way to the Skylab. We did all kinds of stuff in those days. I can remember I was getting in hot water all the time. And it was day and night, I’m telling you what. It was really something. Oh, we did all kinds of stuff like that at that time, but we got her built. And they got it deployed, and the temperature came down real nice.”

A total of seven of the sails were built; two of which were set aside as flight hardware, and the others were designated for testing. “I even had one left and gave it to the Space and Rocket Center out here,” he said.

During the ten days they were grounded, the astronauts of the first crew were still under quarantine and continued to eat their flight diet so as not to ruin the metabolic balance experiment regardless of when they launched. But a trip to Huntsville was necessary, to inspect hardware and discuss repairs with Skylab engineers and to try out the Marshall Sail twin-pole sunshade in their water tank.

“That spacesuited water tank run was a memorable experience,” Joe Ker – win said. “There was an air of quiet intensity. We were all old hands at this, donning the suits, checkout, entry into the water were quick and easy. A pre­liminary version of the sail was ready, and tools were available. We worked our way through the deployment process, noting omissions and improve­ments. We liked what we saw. It was late in the evening when we emerged, and we didn’t know that reporters had gotten wind of the exercise and were clamoring to get in and take pictures. Word came to us, we’d done enough, go back to the motel and home tomorrow; let the backup crew take over. So we returned to the motel, and who should show up but Deke Slayton, carrying a couple of large pizzas and a bottle of wine. Best pizza and wine I ever tasted. Morale was good. Deke knew how to lead. And the metabol­ic balance experiment didn’t suffer. That was the only time we broke the meal regimen.”

Marshall’s Neutral Buoyancy Simulator, large enough to hold full-scale replicas of space hardware underwater, had already played a vital role in the Skylab program in the wet workshop versus dry workshop decision. Now it would make yet another key contribution. “It really proved out to be very,

Ten Days in May

20. Jim Splawn (left) shows Rocco Petrone (center) and Bill Lucas the mount of the sunshade poles.

very beneficial,” said Jim Splawn, who was the neutral-buoyancy tank manag­er at Marshall at the time. “Because once we had the difficulty at the launch of the Skylab itself heading toward orbit, it really proved its worth because of all the hardware we had to assemble underwater.”

Like so many others involved in the effort to save Skylab, Splawn had been at the sl-i launch and was already putting plans in motion even before boarding the NASA plane for the return flight to Marshall. “Once we knew we had a problem, I got on the phone with the crew back here in Huntsville and said, ‘Hey guys, we’ve got to start thinking about how we may help with the repair — design of tools, the mechanics of the procedures we go through. We need to start thinking about that, not tomorrow, but right now. And just ‘think outside the box,’ as we say today.”

The two biggest tasks were to contribute any ideas as to how the prob­lems with the orbital facility could be fixed and to begin thinking about how they would train the flight crews on the procedures and the tools that would be needed to make the repairs. “And that started within probably an hour or so of knowing we had a problem,” he said.

Once development of the Marshall twin-pole sunshade began, the water

tank played an important role in qualifying the design. Test hardware would be fabricated and tested in the tank, problems would be identified and cor­rected, and the cycle would begin again. “With us being there right next door to the shop areas, we had the run of the entire shop to make whatev­er we needed,” Splawn said. “There were times when the shop would make a welded piece, and we’d grab it and run to the water, and when we would put it in the water, it would sizzle because, luckily, with the close proximity we were just working that fast.”

During that period the tank essentially operated as a twenty-four-hour – a-day facility. “Our wives, our families brought changes of clothes to us; they brought hot meals to us. I have no idea how many hours we went with­out sleep. I think at one point I personally went about thirty-four, thirty-six hours. But it was simply because the adrenaline was flowing; you had a mis­sion, and you felt that it was just absolutely your job to do everything you could to make it happen. And we were no different from dozens and doz­ens of other people at Marshall that were pursuing an answer to the problem that we had. So it was very rewarding to see it all come together eventually and put us in business.” Other key members of the msfc neutral-buoyancy team included Charlie Cooper and Dick Heckman, and astronaut Rusty Schweickart spent a large amount of time working with the team to pro­vide crew operations input.

For Splawn his work on Skylab, and particularly the effort to save the sta­tion, was the highlight of his career. “When we were doing flight crew train­ing, we never dreamed that we would end up doing an exercise like this, to have a salvaging kind of ‘Let’s fix the Skylab for the crew so that they can go and spend their days on orbit and do the things they had been trained to do.’ We never dreamed we’d end up in that kind of posture. But the way it worked out, that really is a highlight of my career, even beyond the flight crew training, which for us was probably what we thought would be the apex of our careers. But that ten days, obviously, topped it.

“For the launch of the last crew, we took all of our staff— all the divers, secretary, everybody—to the Cape and got to see the last launch,” he said.

At the same time that the work was going on to figure out how to erect some sort of sunshade on Skylab, another effort was underway to work out how to free the station’s remaining solar array so that it could deploy and provide power. With an attitude that was typical of people involved in the

Ten Days in May

2i. When the first crew arrived at Skylab, they discovered that debris had prevented the solar array (white beam at top) from deploying from the workshop (black cylinder at bottom).

project, the engineers took a task that was considered impossible and prompt­ly began working to figure out how to make it happen.

“Six weeks or so prior to that, maybe it was a little longer, we had done a failure modes and effects analysis, which is kind of typical,” said Chuck Lewis, a man-systems engineer at Marshall at the time (not the same as the Chuck Lewis at Mission Control in Houston). “And one of the things that we and jsc did together was a study of what sort of contingency plans were feasible. One of the issues, believe it or not, was if one of the solar arrays mal­functioned. And the answer to that was, ‘It’s not possible [to do anything]. Can’t get there. Don’t even need to worry about doing any analysis on that.’ The message was, ‘You’re not going down the side of the s-ivb. It’s not pos­sible to get down there, because there are no handrails.’ That was the killer in the notion of whether you could do anything about this.”

Just weeks after the task had been deemed impossible, J. R. Thomp­son, who went on to become the director of the Marshall center, and later nasa’s associate administrator, called in Lewis and others after the Skylab had arrived in orbit and controllers had learned that the unfixable problem had occurred. “J. R. Thompson called three or four of us up to the confer­ence room up there,” Lewis said. “He had the whole vehicle on one drawing spread out on a table. And he said, ‘ok, guys, I know we’ve said we aren’t going to do this. But we’re going to do it. We’re going to figure out how to get down there and see what’s going on.’”

Work on solving the task began even before the initial imagery revealed what exactly had happened. “J. R. was jumping the gun a little bit, not knowing what the details were. Essentially telling us, ‘Start thinking hard about this. We don’t know what’s going on yet, but start thinking about it.’” A “war room” was set up to deal with the situation, with communica­tion lines established with other NASA centers and with the contractors who would be able to provide expertise on the equipment either involved in the problem or needed to fix it.

“We were sitting in that office,” Chuck Lewis said, “and at that point we were basically going on a thirty-hours-on and eight-hours-off schedule; you worked till you dropped—which was about thirty hours—and then went home. I spent the first or second night under the conference table in the room under the one-G mock-up in 4619. My wife brought up a sleeping bag, and I sacked out the first night under the conference table, and J. R. Thompson went and slept in that advanced concepts module, which later turned out to be the precursor to Spacelab. And we were all growing beards and had sunken eyeballs and everything else.

“We were all in contact with an awful lot of people. Because at this point the environment had changed from ‘Who are you, what’s your need to know, who do you work for, and why should I give you this information?’ to ‘What can I get for you?’ Managers were walking around asking what we need­ed — money, people, airplanes, whatever—which was a 180-degree reversal from the typical NASA mindset.

“It seemed like everybody in the world had ideas for solutions. And every­body was working on something. So we had the MacDac [McDonnell Douglas] contractors and our NASA guys sitting in the same room across the aisle from one another. Everybody was keeping track of what was going on. It was the day after launch because everybody was working—Boeing and MacDac and Martin and a bunch of people were working overnight to put concepts together.

“We were being called constantly. The phone was ringing off the wall; everybody had an idea. Every now and then Thompson would come in, and he’d have some reporter calling him on the line, and the typical question was, ‘What are you guys doing?’ And Bob’s answer typically was, ‘It’s what we’re not doing that’s easier to answer. Ask us what we’re not doing, and that’s an easy answer. We’re doing everything.”

Relatively early in the discussions, the idea had arisen of conducting a “stand-up eva,” in which the first crew would fly their Command Module around to the stuck solar wing, open the spacecraft’s hatch, and one crew­member would stand up through the open hatch and attempt to free the array. They got in touch with their counterparts at Johnson Space Center, who said they had been thinking the same thing. “We’d been sitting there with a mock-up on the table, playing around with toothpicks and strings,” Lewis said. “We kinda brainstormed that together and thought what we need to do is figure out something to take up there that will let you poke and prod and maybe pull on something.”

By the morning after the sl-i launch, someone had found a lead on just such a tool. “About nine o’clock in the morning, one of the MacDac guys poked me on the shoulder and said, ‘Chuck, we just learned about a com­pany in Centralia, Missouri, called A. B. Chance Company,’” Lewis said. “They made what they called hot poles for linemen to use from the ground to reach up and activate breakers and stuff like that. They were fiberglass collapsing poles.

“[The Mcdonnell Douglas engineer] said, ‘We found out they also have a number of detachable tools that go on the end of these poles. It might be that if you call these guys, there might be something useful there.’ Anyway, the MacDac guy gave me the phone number for this A. B. Chance Compa­ny, and I said, ‘Sure, I’ll give them a call.’

“So I gave the guys a call, and I talked to the first person who answered and kind of explained the situation. I said, ‘This is Chuck Lewis, and I work for Marshall, and you probably know that we’re having a little trouble with the last launch, and we think you guys might have a tool with some end effectors on the end that we might be able to use.’ The answer I got back was, ‘Well yes, we do, we have a lot of those, and I can send you a catalog right out.’”

Of course, with the crew launch at that point scheduled just days later on 20 May, a mail-order catalog wasn’t going to be anywhere near fast enough. Lewis explained the situation and was directed to the next person up the ladder at the company, who told him that the same – or next-day delivery he needed just wouldn’t be possible because of an airline strike.

“I said, ‘That’s ok, no problem, no problem. Let me talk to the next guy up,’” Lewis said. “He said, ‘ok, I’ll let you speak to the product manager.’ So a guy came on the phone, and his name was Cliff Bosch.”

Bosch told him that A. B. Chance did carry the sort of tools that it sound­ed like NASA needed, took his phone number, and promised to call back in fifteen minutes with an inventory of possible solutions.

“So I let him go, and about that time, the same guy that had original­ly clued me about the A. B. Chance company bumped me on the shoul­der again and said MacDac had been working on an automatic, pneumat­ically operated nibbling tool that you could pull the trigger, and it would nibble through,” Lewis said. “They’d been working on that all night, and [the president of McDonnell Douglas] wanted to bring it out, and he was headed to Huntsville, flying his Aerocommander, and if the guy from A. B. Chance really came up with anything, he’d land at the airport in Cen – tralia and pick it up.

“So when Cliff called back, I asked him how things went, and he said, ‘Oh I haven’t had so much fun in a long time. It’s the first time I’ve ever done this; I walked through the stock room with a box in my hands, and I just picked up stuff off the shelves—now how do I get it to you?’

“And I said, ‘Well, do you have a little airport there in Centralia?’ And he said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘Well, the president of MacDac is going to pick it up in his Aerocommander and bring it to Huntsville.’ And he said, ‘Hell no, you guys don’t know how to use this stuff; you need somebody there to tell you how to use it. Has he got an extra seat?’ So we negotiated back and forth, but the upshot was that Cliff came to Huntsville.”

By the time Bosch arrived at Marshall, first-crew backup astronauts Sto­ry Musgrave and Rusty Schweickart had joined Lewis’s team in working on the solution to the stuck solar array. When Bosch arrived in the high-bay room with the full-size Skylab mock-up, he and the team all sat in a circle on the concrete floor, and he began showing them everything he had brought in his box. “We all sat down cross-legged on the floor, and it was kinda like opening presents at Christmas time,” Lewis said. “He had all kinds of stuff. He must have had thirty or forty pounds worth of end effectors, and two of the extendable poles.”

One of Bosch’s tools, in particular, struck the team at Marshall as having potential. “The one thing they had that was really neat was this scissorslike

Ten Days in May

22. Ed Gibson (from left), Rusty Schweickart, and Pete Conrad participate in discussions about saving Skylab.

cutter that they used to clip electrical cables, that was kinda like the tree trimmer,” Lewis said. “The guys at Marshall re-engineered that in about a day and a half to provide some extra mechanical advantage because they did the analysis on the strap—we’d figured out the material by that time—and we knew what sort of load it was going to take for those jaws to get through that and whether they were going to be able to pull on it. So they put a dou­ble-pulley arrangement in there that was not there originally.”

Of course modifying a tool for spaceflight and actually being able to fly it are two different things. “They had to get that through stress test and every­thing else,” Lewis said. “And how it usually goes is it takes forever. Well, in

this case what they had done was to set up stations, just like college regis­tration. Station one, there was a desk out in front of the office, and some­body would be there with a rubber stamp. Put your drawing down, stamp it, take it over to station two, stamp it. And of course, while all of this was going on, we still had managers going through, saying, ‘What can we do to help? What do you need, money?’ So we had a lot of support.”

(That support wasn’t just limited to people within NASA, either, as Steve Marks, who was working at the time as a NASA aerospace education special­ist, recalls. Marks was involved in an effort to explore the untapped poten­tial of television for NASA education and was transporting some equipment for that project to Marshall. Driving late at night, he was pulled over by a police officer for speeding. However, when the officer saw the NASA logo on the van, and Marks explained that he was delivering equipment to Marshall, the officer promptly sent him on his way—without a ticket.)

While the team at Marshall was going through the goodies that Bosch brought, another team took the poles to look into how they could be stored in the equipment bay of the Command Module. (Ultimately, the collapsible A. B. Chance poles would not be used, and NASA would instead re-create a modified version consisting of segments that could be assembled.) By that afternoon, the group working that issue at Kennedy said that they believed they had figured out how to store poles in the Command Module, but they wanted to actually see what they were working with to be sure.

“And J. R. came striding in; he strode into our meeting circle on the floor,” Lewis said. “We were still sitting cross-legged on the floor of the high-bay area, and he said, ‘Where’s this guy from Centralia, the guy with the tools? ’ Cliff raised his hand. J. R. said, ‘Your plane leaves for the Cape in forty-five minutes, can you be ready?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, give me a chance to call my wife.’ He hadn’t talked to her since he left that morning for work. He’d had a glass of orange juice, that was it. So he called his wife, and he said—at least, this is what he reported back—he said, ‘I asked her to pack me a bag, and send it on a plane to Florida. I tried to explain what was going on, and I promised I’d explain it when I had a chance.’ I think it was the Gulfstream that he got on and took his tools, with the exception of the flight items that our guys were still running through the machine shops.

“My recollection is, it was about a week and a half before he got home,” he said. “To me, that’s just a wonderful story, and it’s such a wonderful exam­ple of what was going on around the world.”

During the ten-day period between the troubled launch of the Skylab on 14 May 1973, and the launch of the first crew on 25 May, three completely independent repair methods had been conceived and built by the NASA team and tested and practiced by the flight crews who would deploy them.

“I consider these ten days the crowning achievement of NASA’s real-time performance in their near half-century of existence—only matched in the recovery of the Apollo 13 crew a few years before,” Owen Garriott said. “With Skylab, however, all NASA centers and thousands of civil servants and space contractors were involved in saving the program.

The Scientist Astronauts

Each of the three Skylab crews also included one of the members of NASA’s first group of scientist astronauts, selected in June 1965. Six men had been selected in the group of scientists: Owen Garriott, Ed Gibson, Duane Grav­eline, Joe Kerwin, Curtis Michel, and Harrison Schmitt.

By 1962 the recommendation had been made to NASA that it should add scientists to the crews it would be sending to the moon. It was argued they would be able to more effectively conduct research there than the pilots that then made up the corps. The idea that scientists should be included in the first lunar landing crew was soundly rejected by management who argued that spaceflight to another world was a challenging prospect, requiring the skills of expert pilots. Including a scientist on the crew to conduct research on the lunar surface would be of no use if they were unable to reach the sur­face safely to begin with.

However, the agency conceded that there would be benefits to recruiting scientists into the astronaut corps for future missions and in 1964 partnered with the National Academy of Sciences to open its first scientist astronaut application process.

To be eligible to apply, candidates had to have been born no earlier than 1 August 1930 and be no more than six feet tall. Applicants had to be U. S. citi­zens and most importantly for this round had to hold a doctor of philosophy

The Scientist Astronauts

5- Members of the second Skylab crew:

(from left) Owen Garriott, Jack Lousma, and Alan Bean.

degree (PhD) or equivalent in natural sciences, medicine, or engineering. While no flight experience was required, it would count in an applicant’s favor.

Within two and a half months of announcing the selection process, NASA had received 1,351 applications. The agency screened those applications and submitted 400 of them to the Academy of Sciences for review. Hoping to bring roughly ten to twenty new candidates into astronaut training at the end of the process (to ensure enough made it through the training), NASA asked the academy to select fifty finalists from which it could pick its candidates.

After its review though, the National Academy of Sciences only felt that sixteen of the applicants were sufficiently qualified to recommend to NASA. The agency then put those finalists through its selection process of medical and psychological testing and interviews and ended up with only six men it found worthy of bringing in as astronauts. “For nine months NASA and the National Academy of Sciences screened over thirteen hundred appli­cants and, as I joked at the time, in all of the U. S., NASA could find only six healthy scientists,” recalled Ed Gibson.

One of the six, Duane Graveline, left the corps very shortly after reporting for duty because of concerns over publicity concerning his wife’s decision to

file for divorce. Kerwin and Michel were already jet qualified, but the other three began their astronaut careers by going through flight training at Wil­liams Air Force Base in Arizona. “Two of our group had pilot wings from the military,” Gibson said. “nasa sent the remaining four of us off to flight school to get Air Force wings. We all did reasonably well. I was second in my class of forty-two; I would have been first but I screwed up an aerody­namics exam. It was very embarrassing for a guy with a PhD that includ­ed a lot of theoretical aerodynamics. Since then I acquired 2,200 hours of flight time in the T-38 and additional hours in other aircraft including heli­copters. I felt that in a flash my lab stool had been ripped out from under me and replaced by a T-38 ejection seat.”

Much had been made of the role of the scientist astronauts within the astronaut corps. Certainly the members of Group 4 were treated different­ly by management than their pilot counterparts, but with reason: they were different. Some of the scientist astronauts, particularly in the next group selected, chafed at a treatment they saw as relegating them to second-class – citizen status within the corps. Others believed that it made sense that the two types of astronauts would perform different functions and did not mind the role they’d been assigned. Yet others fell somewhere in the middle.

Joe Kerwin recalled: “There was a pilots’ meeting in the office confer­ence room every Monday morning at eight o’clock. At my first one I sat in the back of the room while Al Shepard told the group that we were here. Then he said, ‘Headquarters has agreed that we can select another group to report next year.’ Dick Gordon asked, ‘Are they gonna be pilots?’ Al said, ‘I certainly hope so.’

“A couple of weeks later Shepard said, ‘We’ll be putting together crews for the last three Gemini flights soon. Any volunteers? (a pause) Put your hand down, Kerwin.’ We both smiled. It was clear that these were not the flights they had in mind for us. Nor was I ready for a flight.”

Whatever their relationship to the powers that be, the scientist astronauts’ personal relationships with their fellow astronauts was generally positive. “In my case, one of the latest [Group 5 astronauts], Joe Engle, was my neighbor on the right, while another, Al Worden, was my neighbor to the left at our homes in Nassau Bay,” Garriott said. “My relationship with them and oth­ers in the office has always been excellent.”

Kerwin explained that while their classmates were in flight training, he and Michel were in a sort of limbo status while awaiting the return of the others and the selection of Group 5 so their official training could begin. “I was given a nice, big office and shared a secretary with about three other astronauts,” he said. “It was explained that training for the two of us would have to wait until the arrival of the next group to be selected, the ‘Original Nineteen’ as they would call themselves, in the spring of 1966. So I was left pretty free to roam the center, learning what I could on my own. The oth­er astronauts were always friendly, but they didn’t pay much attention to us (and Curt spent a lot of time back at Rice University). Only two, Charlie Bassett and Neil Armstrong, made it a point to drop by my office, welcome me aboard, and offer to answer any questions I had. But two was enough. That was a great morale booster.

“I thought about spending some time in the clinic, keeping my medical skills fresh, and asked Captain Shepard for his concurrence,” Kerwin said. “Al thought about it for a minute then said, ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea. We’ll have a lot of other things for you to do.’ I accepted that as a dual mes­sage. One, my first priority had to be to learn, contribute, and prove myself as astronaut material. Two, maybe it wasn’t a great idea to spend too much time with the doctors. And there was some sense to that; I might put myself into a conflict of interest situation treating fellow astronauts or their dependents.

“It wasn’t long before Jim Lovell, who’d been in my squadron at Cecil Field, Florida, before he came to Houston, dropped by and asked me to help design him a primitive exercise program. He was training to fly with Frank Borman on the longest spaceflight planned to date—Gemini 7, which would orbit the Earth for fourteen days. The cockpit was about the size of the front seat of a Volkswagen Beetle, so Frank and Jim would get pretty well acquainted during the flight, and they had very little room for exercise gear. They’d selected an Exergenie—a compact device consisting of ropes passed through a core where the pull friction could be set. You looped two ropes over your feet and pulled on wooden handles at the other ends with your hands against the resistance. I sat down with Rita Rapp, a NASA physi­ologist and a wonderful worker, and together we designed a routine for Frank and Jim to use to stretch those unused back and leg muscles.

“At that time and for a long time thereafter, the astronauts considered exer­cise in flight to be their prerogative—an operational activity, not a medical one. So supplying their own hardware and protocol was business as usual to them. But Dr. Chuck Berry, the chief flight surgeon at msc, thought other­wise. He considered the fourteen-day Gemini flight to be NASA’s one oppor­tunity to certify humans for the upcoming flights to the moon and wanted control of and data from exercise. I was called to Chuck’s office on the eighth floor of the main building at msc (it was Building 2 then), and he told me that meddling in medical business without his concurrence could adverse­ly affect my career. I said ‘Yes, sir,’ and walked down to the other end of the hall where Deke Slayton, Al Shepard’s boss, was located. Deke listened to my story thoughtfully and responded with five words: ‘Keep doing what you’re doing.’ I did. And from then on, I got a lot of assignments to go to meetings and participate in teams where medicine and operations met and sometimes clashed. It was a lot of fun, and most of the time we all got along famously. I was accepted as a loyal member of the astronaut corps, and I had an opportunity to learn a lot about life-support systems, spacesuits, bends, and exercise that was valuable later on.”

Alan Bean recalled that he and the others already in the corps were uncer­tain what to make of the new arrivals when they were brought in. “I guess it would have to be said that we were kind of wait and see,” he said. “You tend to not want any other people to come in because you want to take all the flights. So any time some new group of anybody shows up, even though you know you have to have younger people, you still haven’t had your fill.

“And of course, scientists. We’re all test pilots; we’re saying I don’t know if those guys can cut it. But they don’t show up; they go off to flight train­ing. By the time they come, we’re aware that they’ve gone through military flight training. We also know their grades and stuff, sort of. So we’re then changing our attitude a little. They got through flight training, and some of those guys were better than we were, and that’s good. And, of course, then we started to fly with them, and our attitude began to change even more.” The use of the term “scientist astronaut” surely affected the corps’ ini­tial perception of its newest members. “I still think the word scientist wasn’t a good word,” Bean said, explaining that it likely prompted a “knee-jerk reaction” among the pilot astronauts. “Over time, though, that distinction lessened as their flying proficiency was recognized and some even quali­fied as ‘instructor-pilots’ in a T-38 jet. Then too their contributions to their assigned crews in geology, medical, or solar science training became very positive points in their relationships to other pilots. Although members of Group 4 may have come in as ‘scientists’ rather than ‘pilots,’ well before flight their complementary talents earned them both acceptance and respect from their peers.

“And so by the time we worked together, and they were assigned, I thought of Owen as a scientist when we did science, but as far as flying airplanes, we thought of him as just as good as we were. So it was more like, there was nev­er any flying thing that I would have said ‘I’d better do that, or Jack should do it, but not Owen.’”

By the time of Skylab, there remained only three unflown members of Group 4 as it rather nicely worked out, one for each of the three missions. Michel, realizing that an assignment on one of the Apollo flights was unlikely and unsure when another mission would be available, had decided about two months after the Apollo 11 mission to leave the corps and return to teaching and research.

Schmitt, considered the best fit of Group 4 for a lunar mission by merit of his background as a geologist, was assigned to Apollo 17 as Lunar Module pilot and walked on the moon in December 1972. That left Garriott, Gibson, and Kerwin to fill the role of science pilot for the three Skylab crews.

Owen Garriott said, “Occasionally I’m asked if I was disappointed in not having a chance to go to the moon—only into orbit around the Earth (even though [the flight was] many times longer than a lunar flight). In fact, the answer is ‘no,’ and if given the choice of only one or the other, I would pick two months on Skylab. Why?

“There are several reasons. First, that is where my background training (electrical engineering, physical science research on the Earth’s ionosphere) can be of most use. In fact, all scientist astronauts have found that regard­less of their backgrounds, what the scientist astronaut job most requires is the skills of a scientist-generalist, someone who thinks like a researcher and has broad enough knowledge and experience to interpret what he sees. I would like to think that I fit the role of the generalist placed in a position to work with world authorities in several disciplines in the conduct of their research.

“Secondly, all of us in the astronaut office had a marvelous opportuni­ty to travel the globe with world-class geologists studying (principally) vol­canic regions thought to resemble conditions on the moon. We all greatly enjoyed these ‘geology field trips.’ I also soon realized that the pilot astro­nauts with whom we traveled were excellent observers and keenly interested in the research objectives of our instructors. For the three nongeologist sci­entist astronauts, I believe we would have been hard pressed to do any bet­ter job than the pilots while on the moon’s surface, whereas we might have had (arguably, I must admit) a modest advantage in Earth orbit with many disciplines to represent.

“And finally, there is the issue of personal satisfaction. World-record dura­tions, working in several fascinating disciplines more suited to my back­ground, more time for reflection, and camaraderie all make a Skylab mis­sion the first choice for me.”

Owen Garriott’s path to the astronaut corps began at the dawn of the space age. Garriott was born in Enid, Oklahoma, in 1930 and received a bachelor of science (bs) degree in electrical engineering from the Universi­ty of Oklahoma in 1953. He had earned the degree on a Naval rotc schol­arship, and so he served from 1953 until 1956 as an electronics officer in the U. S. Navy. After completing his obligation, Garriott continued his educa­tion, earning a master of science (ms) degree and a PhD from Stanford Uni­versity in electrical engineering in 1957 and i960, respectively.

After completing his master’s degree in 1957, Garriott was working on choosing a research topic for his PhD. Inspiration came in the form of the “beep-beep” heard ’round the world. After Sputnik was launched on 4 Octo­ber, almost all of the graduate students and professors in the Radio Propa­gation Laboratory went out to the equipment set up at the field site and lis­tened to the signal sent back by the Soviet satellite as it orbited the Earth. Garriott selected his topic: propagation of signals from orbiting satellites through the planet’s ionosphere.

After earning his PhD, Garriott stayed on at Stanford, teaching and con­ducting research, eventually becoming an associate professor. He continued to follow the space program, and his interest grew when, after Alan Shepard became the first American in space, he realized that there might be a need for astronauts with research backgrounds in the future. Looking ahead to what might make a candidate more appealing if that were to come about, Garriott acted on a long-held ambition to earn a pilot’s license.

When NASA decided to seek applications for scientist astronauts, Gar­riott was ready and waiting. “In May of 1965, I was waiting hopefully for a decision from NASA as to whether my life (and my family’s) might under­go a major reorientation,” Garriott recalls. “I was teaching a class at Stan­ford University and coming up on the end of the quarter when a call arrived from NASA wanting to verify that I would be available for a telephone call later that day. ‘Yes, of course!’

“But I also had a lecture scheduled later in the afternoon. So I asked the secretary to whom the call should come to be alert for a call from NASA and to be sure and let me know about it. But if I was giving a lecture, just to come to the door and signal hand to ear that a call had arrived. Naturally, the call came in the middle of the lecture, Sally signaled as planned, and I decided to complete all (or most) of the lecture and call them back. Not knowing who for sure was calling and not knowing what the decision might be was more than the usual distraction!

“But I returned the call in fifteen minutes or so and apologized profuse­ly for being unable to come to the phone immediately. Al Shepard did not seem concerned and provided the hoped-for question—‘Would you like to come to work for NASA as a scientist astronaut?’ Again ‘Yes, of course,’ start­ed the brief exchange. A quick telephone call home alerted the wife, and we waited for an official announcement because I never felt certain of selection until nasa had made some public commitment.”

“I started out being president of my first grade class two years in a row,” joked Ed Gibson, in a NASA oral history interview, of his inauspicious aca­demic beginnings. Self-described as “not a good student” in elementary school, Gibson said the only subjects that really captured his interest were science and astronomy. He recalls, as a young child, drawing pictures of the solar system. Though Gibson, born in 1936 in Buffalo, New York, improved his academic performance in high school, the interest in science remained. After high school he earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering at the Uni­versity of Rochester. The choice was inspired by his father, who wanted his son to work at his marking-devices company and thought engineering skills would be a valuable addition to the business.

A desire to fly for the Air Force was shot down by a bone condition that was then a disqualification for being a pilot. Unable to fly planes, he decid­ed to pursue building them. Rather than joining his father’s business after earning his bachelor’s degree, Gibson went on to earn a master’s and then a doctorate in engineering from the California Institute of Technology.

His childhood interest in astronomy and space never went away, and while in graduate school, he followed the Mercury and Gemini programs with great fascination, “never thinking [he’d] have a chance to be involved in them.” After completing graduate school, he took a job as a senior research scientist with the Applied Research Laboratories of Philco Corporation at Newport Beach, California. It was while he was working there that his wife, Julie, read him an article at breakfast one morning saying that NASA was looking for scientists who wanted to fly in space. “I thought long and hard about it, and 8 o’clock that morning, applied,” Gibson joked. “I had no qualms, whatsoever.”

Of the four scientists astronauts who ended up flying, Joe Kerwin’s path had the most in common with that of the first groups selected—it involved many hours in the cockpit of a military jet.

Born in 1932, Kerwin is a native of Oak Park, Illinois. After earning a bach­elor’s degree in philosophy from Holy Cross, followed by his doctor of med­icine degree from Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago in 1957, Kerwin completed an internship at the District of Columbia General Hospital. At that point, under the Berry Plan, which allowed medical stu­dents to be exempted from the draft while completing their school or intern­ships, Kerwin was called up for service. Among the options he was offered was the last seat in flight surgeon training at the U. S. Navy School of Avia­tion Medicine in Pensacola, Florida. Though it would mean an additional six months of service, Kerwin was intrigued by the prospect of getting some flying time and signed up. After flight surgeon training, he was assigned to the Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point, North Carolina.

During his tour, the Marines with whom he was assigned would allow him to start their fighters and taxi them around. “The bug really bit me,” Kerwin said, and he applied for a Navy program in which a select number of flight surgeons were trained to become naval aviators with the idea that it would provide them a better background for performing their duties. He was accepted to the program and transferred from the naval reserve to the regular Navy. While assigned to an air wing at Cecil Field, Florida, a cou­ple of friends he had made among the aviators asked him for a favor—help filling out the medical portion of their applications to become astronauts. Those two pilots were Alan Bean and Jim Lovell.

When the scientist astronaut program was announced in 1964, his wife asked him whether he wanted to try for it. He was skeptical of his chances but finally submitted his application, and the combination of a physician with two thousand hours of jet flight time proved too good to pass up. Garriott recalled, “At our first meeting for the ten-day physical examinations at the School for Aerospace Medicine leading up to scientist astronaut selection, I had a ‘funny’ in one electroencephalogram test. The physicians required that I stay up all night—as an extra stressor—for a repeat test the next morning. New acquaintance and probable competitor Joe Kerwin graciously offered to stay awake about half the night with me just to help me avoid falling asleep. He ended up staying until 5:30 in the morning. It worked, and we were both selected. But those gestures are never forgotten!”

"We Fix Anything&quot

“Launch day arrived, ready or not, as days do,” Joe Kerwin said. “It was a beautiful, quiet morning at the Cape. We went through our checks and soon were standing on the platform at Pad 39B, waiting for ingress and looking out over the peaceful ocean, with sea birds flying below us. The Cape was practically deserted; all the guests had long since gone home. The families would see this launch on television.

“I was the last crewmember to be inserted into the Command Module because I had the center couch and would be in the way of the others. There was plenty of help strapping in and making the oxygen and communica­tions connections. And a friendly handshake and pat on the shoulder, and the hatch was closed. Communications check. Countdown continues; here’s the right place in the checklist. Pete’s on the left, in charge; he has the abort handle. Paul’s on the right, the Command Service Module systems expert. I’m in the middle, computer backup and navigation. We’ve done all this a million times (two million for Pete), and it’s all going well.

“About ten minutes before launch, Pete said on the intercom, ‘Guys, Mis­sion Control needs something to cheer them up. What can we say at liftoff that’ll do the trick?’ We discussed it a little bit and Pete made up his mind. Liftoff came, and amidst the noise and shaking, as the tail of the Saturn IB rose above the level of the launch gantry, Pete made his first voice call: ‘Lift­off. And the clock is running.’ And his second: ‘Clear the tower. And Hous­ton, Skylab Two, We Fix Anything, got a pitch and a roll program.’

“One of the longest, busiest days of our lives was underway.”

Mission Control had reason for needing cheering up on the first crew’s launch day, 25 May 1973. The team felt the clear need to get the astronauts to Skylab before it was too late to save it. There were launch constraints: one was that calling a hold too late in the count required detanking then refueling the booster, making a launch the next day impossible. And a new

"We Fix Anything&quot

23. The “milkstool” used to raise the Saturn ib boosters for launch on the Saturn v—fitted launch pad is visible in this photo of the sl-2 launch.

problem had cropped up. The mission operations computer began experi­encing overload problems. When that happened it needed to be taken offline and reinitialized. It must not be offline during launch. And the cause of the overloads was unknown.

The launch flight director, Phil Shaffer, had several intense conversations with his computer supervisor, who assured him that he could bring the com­puter online for liftoff and that it would stay online throughout launch. Phil had a decision to make. He recalled: “At T minus six minutes the launch

director at the Cape came to me for a ‘Go for Launch.’ At that time the mis­sion operations computer was down and being brought up. The last status check was at T minus three, and if we went down, then it would preclude a next-day launch. I gave a ‘Go’ to the Cape. And then the computer did come online, and it performed nominally ’til the end of the first stage burn. At staging the computer overload problem just disappeared.”

A similar problem would occur at the end of the last mission when because of memory problems the mission operations computer was dropping out every ten to twenty minutes. Mission Control found that they could rein­itialize between station passes and keep coverage seamless that way, and it worked. It provided a pair of bookends for Skylab: two problems assessed and overcome by the flight control team.

Despite having been through the launch procedure countless times in simulation, the two astronauts making their first spaceflight found the real thing rather exciting. “The liftoff and ascent were of course quite an expe­rience for us newbies,” Paul Weitz said. “There is a programmed activity with the booster’s first stage called ‘Propellant Utilization Shift.’ When we got the pu Shift, the thrust dropped off dramatically as far as I was con­cerned — my first thought was that we had lost an engine. Pete, of course, said something to the effect ‘Cool it, rookie.’”

They reached orbit without incident, and gloves and helmets came off. Kerwin, who had “average” susceptibility to seasickness, took a planned sco – polamine/Dexedrine capsule before leaving his couch; Conrad and Weitz pressed ahead with rendezvous. They were due to arrive at Skylab in about eight hours, and there was a lot to do. The space beneath the crew couches was a sight to behold, a sea of brown cloth and rope securing all the strange equipment that made up the Skylab repair kit. That under-the-couch vol­ume was normally kept clear for launch. In case of a very early abort, the Command Module would be pulled away from the booster by its Launch Escape Tower, and the parachutes would deploy and land the spacecraft off­shore. If the winds were unfavorable, a landing on the beach was possible, a hard landing, which would cause the couches to “stroke”; that is, to crush compressible aluminum material inside their struts and move down a foot or so, cushioning the shock to the crew. But that space was needed for the three sunshades and all the poles and cutters that were selected for repair. So NASA just made sure the east wind at altitude was not strong enough to blow the vehicle back onto the beach.

Upon reaching orbit, Kerwin disconnected his center couch and slid it underneath Conrad’s. Then he spent much of the eight hours before ren­dezvous untying and rearranging all the gear to check it out and have at hand what might be needed on Mission Day 1. After a series of maneuvers, Conrad spotted Skylab out the window and expertly executed the braking maneuvers that brought the Command Module beside it.

Once in place, Pete flew the Apollo spacecraft slowly around Skylab. It all looked pretty much as expected, but the sight of all that gold-colored Mylar where the heat shield was supposed to be—already turning a dis­colored brown in spots from the intense ultraviolet sunlight—was a little alarming. It looked hot.

“After orbital insertion, we started our catch-up with the ows [Orbital Workshop],” Paul Weitz said. “Joe got the first look at it through the tele­scope. After rendezvous we did an inspection fly around. The atm and its solar array had deployed normally. One solar wing on the ows was miss­ing —it was cleanly gone, with no apparent damage to the ows. Broken wires, cables, and mechanical attachments protruded from the base of the array like tendons on a broken turkey wing. The other array was partially deployed but was held close to the ows’s surface by a piece of debris from the missing meteoroid/heat shield that had wrapped itself up over the top of the solar array wing. All the rest of the meteoroid shield was gone. We took photos and downlinked TV to the ground.

“It was a frustrating time for me because my job was to take the pho­tos with a thirty-five millimeter camera with a telephoto lens, and to get the TV imagery. Well, both of these devices had relatively long lenses, and there was not much clearance between the window and the couch support structure. It was difficult in zero-G to get a good stable picture, but I guess it turned out ok.”

After completing the fly around, Pete maneuvered to the Multiple Dock­ing Adapter’s centerline docking port and performed a trouble-free soft dock. The Apollo docking system had two parts. The Command Module had a probe, a device that looked like a diamond-shaped metal-frame skel­eton of a box standing on one corner with a cluster of small latches at the opposite corner—the capture latches. The four corners in the middle of this box were hinged and motorized. Commanding the motors to straight­en those corners, would make the probe get longer and skinnier—it would

extend—and commanding the motors to bend the corners would retract the probe, pulling the capture latches in. In the Multiple Docking Adapt­er’s docking port was the other half of the mechanism, the drogue—a con­cave metal cone with a hole at its apex just big enough to allow the three capture latches to push in, then snap out like door latches. The procedure was to extend the probe, then drive the vehicles together until the capture latches engaged the hole in the drogue, retract the probe, pulling the two spacecraft together until the twelve big main latches touched, engaged, and made an airtight seal.

For this interlude Pete engaged the capture latches but didn’t retract the probe; the Command Service Module just swung lazily in place by the end of the probe while the crew had a bite to eat and planned the evening’s activ­ities with Houston. A full hard dock wasn’t desirable at this point because of the likelihood that they’d undock again shortly. The docking system need­ed to be dismantled and reset after a hard dock.

The team agreed that an eva would be done that day. It looked as though there was a chance that if the crew pulled on the stuck solar panel cover, it might come free. They had a tool in their kit with which to make the attempt—a curved metal “shepherd’s crook,” which they could attach to a five-foot aluminum pole. Everyone felt fine, no motion sickness; and NASA had not yet passed the mission rule prohibiting evas (except in an emergen­cy) until the fourth day of a mission to allow time to adjust to weightless­ness —just to make sure astronauts don’t vomit into their helmets. So they prepared the shepherd’s crook, put their helmets and gloves back on, and Pete retracted the capture latches and undocked.

The next step was to let the air out of the Command Module. Pete suf­fered an ear block during that depressurization but insisted the crew keep going. He flew back around to the offending solar panel cover, and Paul opened the side hatch. Paul got to be the shepherd; he glided halfway out the hatch, crook in hand. Joe’s job was to hang on to his legs to keep him from going out all the way. He maneuvered the crook into the gap between the solar panel cover and the side of the Orbital Workshop and pulled with all his strength.

“I positioned the crook under the end of the wing and gave a mighty heave.” Weitz recalled. “The wing did not move, but it pulled the csm toward the ows. Now, the hatch opened to the left, which blocked half of Pete’s field of view. So I am yanking on the pole; the csm is being pulled in; and much to my amazement, in zero-g I was even moving the one-hundred-ton lab. I could see the cold gas thrusters on the ows firing to maintain attitude, and Pete is mumbling and cursing in his attempts to maintain some semblance of station-keeping.

“Pete decided to give up on the shepherd’s crook and to try the branch loppers. Joe changed out the end equipment, and I tried to cut through the material that was holding the wing down. We could not get a satisfactory grip on the debris that would allow me to cut through it, so we in exasper­ation decided to call it a day.”

After the unsuccessful attempt, Kerwin helped Weitz get the pole and himself back into the spacecraft. They closed the hatch and headed back to the station’s axial docking port to dock with Skylab again, this time for the long haul.

Joe Kerwin recalled the docking: “Fate had another bear trap to fling in our path. When Pete approached the docking port to soft dock, the cap­ture latches would not engage. He tried it again, with a slower approach. Then he tried it with a faster approach. He tried the first backup docking procedure in the checklist. No joy. Then the second backup docking pro­cedure. Still no joy. Suddenly there was a grimmer problem than the solar panel. If we couldn’t dock, we would have to come home. With nothing accomplished.

“Pete backed off and kept station with Skylab and talked it over with Hous­ton. It was close to midnight back home, and the crew had been awake for twenty-one hours, but Pete’s flying was as smooth as ever. And there was one more procedure in the book, labeled laconically: final docking attempt. It required what amounted to a second spacewalk. Could we do it?

“Back up three months. We’re in the Command Module trainer, going over a few procedures with our instructor, Jake Smith. We’d finished every­thing on the list and were ready to go home. Jake said, ‘Guys, there’s this third backup docking procedure we’ve never gone through. It’s never been used. Why don’t I just talk you through it once, so you can see which wires to cut.’ We were ok with that, and fifteen minutes later we had filled that training square. God bless you, Jake!”

Gloves and helmets went back on. Once more they brought the Com­mand Module down to vacuum. Pete’s ear was still blocked but was not too painful. This time they removed the hatch to the docking tunnel. Joe made the changes to the docking probe per the checklist, put the hatch back in place, and they repressurized. Paul then did the rewiring in the right – hand equipment bay. The idea of this procedure was to remove the elec­trical interlock that prevented the main latches from actuating unless the capture latches were secure. Pete would drive the csm into the drogue and just keep thrusting while he commanded the probe to retract. Then if the crew were lucky, the main latches would close on contact with the Skylab half of the tunnel.

Everything was checked. Pete stood in for the last attempt. The check­list said it would work in ten seconds or never. He closed in and made con­tact and kept the forward thrusters firing. Probe to “Retract.” “We counted, ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two—and a machine gun went off in our faces,” Kerwin said. “That explosive rattle was the main latches engaging. We were staying!”

As he checked the tunnel between the two spacecraft, Weitz discovered that eleven of the twelve latches had captured during the hard dock. The last one engaged manually with no problem. “There was a great collective sigh of relief onboard and in Mission Control,” Kerwin said. “We equalized pressure, opened the tunnel hatch, snacked again, used the waste manage­ment system, and so to bed. And we slept like babies. No one had time to even think about space motion sickness.”

Reflecting concerns that the equipment issues that had caused problems for docking could also cause further complications later, Pete’s final com­ment as the crew went to sleep in the Command Module at 1:30 a. m. had been, “Now that we’re docked, I’m not sure how we get ««docked.”

On Day 2, Houston’s first call came at eight minutes after nine. The first words from Skylab were, “We’re all healthy, Houston.” Whether they were likely to stay healthy would be determined by a couple of tests scheduled after breakfast. The issue was whether the atmosphere in Skylab was safe to breathe.

The walls of the workshop, originally built to contain liquid hydrogen, were insulated with a thick layer of polyurethane foam covered with fiber­glass. The foam was manufactured with toluene diisocyanate, a toxic mate­rial. Testing showed that the polyurethane would begin to break down from heat at a temperature of about 390 degrees, releasing toluene and other nasty products into the air. Had that happened? The estimated temperature the foam had reached was 350 degrees on the skin side and 160 degrees on the interior. But that was just an estimate.

Dr. Chuck Ross, the Skylab 1 crew surgeon, recalled: “This was one of our biggest concerns about Skylab’s condition—that breakdown of the insu­lation would release a ‘toxic soup’ of poisonous gases into the atmosphere. We worked the problem hard under the leadership of our chief toxicologist, Elliott Harris. We identified and procured gas-sampling tubes which would measure the levels of toluene and adapted them to suck gas through Skylab’s hatch equalization valves. That was so that we could do a ‘sniff test’ before anyone entered Skylab. We procured two activated-charcoal [filter] masks for the crew to use while first entering the ows. And we prevailed upon the control team to evacuate all the gas out of Skylab and refill it—I think they did that twice before the crew arrived.”

Now was the time to conduct those tests. First the crew verified that pres­sure had held steady in the short tunnel between the Command Module and the Multiple Docking Adapter. Then the Command Module hatch was opened, and the docking probe removed and carefully set aside for future investigation. Next Paul Weitz broke out a sniff-test sampling tube and drew a sample of air from the Multiple Docking Adapter to test for toluene. The test was negative as was a previously planned test for carbon monox­ide (a routine precaution that would be repeated periodically throughout the Skylab missions). At about 11:30 a. m. Paul removed the second hatch and moved into the Multiple Docking Adapter, eagerly followed by the rest of the crew. This was the crew’s first exposure to moving around in a large volume—and about ten minutes after entry Pete said to the Capcom, “Tell the docs we didn’t need our motion sickness pills.”

Pete did a thorough inspection of the docking probe and drogue. Hous­ton made several suggestions about what to look for. Pete replied, “All right. And what’s your opinion on if we had to undock, how’d we go about doing it? Do you think we could get the capture latches to cock?” Houston said they were thinking about that.

Removal of the probe showed that two of the three capture latches had opened but the third was stuck down. Pete also noted a scrape along the side of the drogue, probably due to one of his more forceful docking attempts. After cycling the latches several times and noting that the same one hung up repeatedly, Pete stowed the probe for the time being.

While Joe started activating Apollo Telescope Mount systems, Pete and Paul worked on starting up power and ventilation to the workshop. Paul had the first fans turned on by 1:30 p. m. Wearing a charcoal mask, he made a quick trip into the workshop to check the airflow gauges and general con­dition and turn on the rest of the fans. The air recirculation system con­tained charcoal filters that would absorb toluene if it was present. Return­ing to the Multiple Docking Adapter, he told Houston, “Okay, on our fairly quick inspection the ows appears to be in good shape. It feels a little bit warm, as you might expect. From the three to five minutes I spent in there I would say subjectively it’s about—it’s a dry heat. I guess it feels like 90 to 100 degrees in the desert. Hank, I could feel heat radiating from all around me. . . . I had the soft shoes and the gloves on, and nothing I touched felt hot to me.”

Power was a major consideration (and would remain so for the next two weeks).

Houston: “. . . and to help our power situation, I guess we’d like to get the ows entry lights turned off there while we’re eating lunch—after you complete the sniff.”

Paul: “I thought I turned them off when I came out, Hank.”

Houston: “Okay, you may have.”

Pete: “Yes, he did.”

Paul: “You think I’m not power conscious?”

The toluene sniff test was now repeated for the workshop and was neg­ative. The crew floated back into the Command Module to eat lunch, and at about a quarter past four Pete and Paul entered the workshop again, this time without masks, to prepare to deploy the parasol.

Pete: “How do you read, Houston?”

Capcom: “I’m reading you loud and clear, Pete.”

Pete: “Okay; I got you on the speaker box—ow. Yes, I got my hot gloves back on again. The speaker box is about 130 degrees.”

The parasol had been packed in a rectangular aluminum experiment con­tainer about one foot square and five feet long. Now Pete and Paul carried it from the Command Module down to the Scientific Airlock on the sun­ny side of the workshop, the same side of the cluster as the Apollo Telescope Mount and so normally always pointed at the sun. This location was a lucky

"We Fix Anything&quot

24- The parasol deployment mechanism fitted to the solar airlock.

one for it was centered on the side of the workshop that needed to be shad­ed. (It wasn’t so lucky for a couple of experiments designed to use it.)

One end of the container was inserted and locked into the airlock to make an airtight seal. Then the metal Scientific Airlock outer door was cranked open, exposing the parasol to vacuum. At this point, Pete and Paul retreat­ed to the Multiple Docking Adapter for a cooling-off break and a drink of water. Meanwhile Joe was in the Command Module setting up a TV camera to catch a glimpse of the deployment looking aft through a window down the length of the cluster.

Now a series of seven metal rods were inserted one at a time through a seal in the free end of the container and slowly pushed, carrying the apex of the folded-up parasol out into space. To the parasol’s apex were connected four fishing rods to which in turn the nylon parasol material was fastened. The rods had been telescoped; as they extended fully, each section locked in place. Then the crew released a brake holding springs designed to push the fishing rods out and down until they opened fully and locked into place, covering the workshop.

Considering the haste in which this rig had been designed, built, tested, and loaded into the Command Module for flight, it’s a wonder it worked at all. It did work, but it required a lot of sweat and some ingenuity to get it laid out flat.

Pete (at four minutes after 8:oo p. m.): “ok, Houston, we had a clean deployment as far as rods clearing and everything, but it’s not laid out the way it’s supposed to be. . . . The problem seems to be that the folds in the material have taken too much of a set. . . . We’re open for suggestions.”

Capcom: “Roger. First off, we’d like to get Joe to tell us what he saw out the window. We’d like to know if all the rods are approximately the same plane.”

Joe: “Well, we don’t think so, Houston. . . . The front legs, that is the for­ward ones closest to the Command Module, came out smartly. . . . It looks as if they actually went over center a little bit, then bounced back. The back ones did not come out, it looked like, all the way—didn’t come to ninety degrees. They went slowly, and they just kind of drifted to a stop.”

Capcom: “Okay. What kind of an angle do you think they made with the plane of the first two rods?”

Joe: “It’s your guess, but I guess thirty degrees, something like that.”

Capcom: “ok. We would like for the cdr and plt to go back in the work­shop and pull her in, and we want you to complete the procedure down to Step 43 so you’ve done a full retraction.”

Paul and Pete got the parasol pulled in, and noted that the rods that had been exposed to vacuum were nice and cool as they came back in.

Paul: “Rod B is gathering frost as it lays here in the fiery workshop.”

Finally, they pushed it out a couple of feet and immediately pulled it in again. That straightened out the aft rods pretty well.

Houston: “We’re looking at two flight plans tomorrow. We’re taking a tentative look at one that doesn’t consider anything in the Workshop. The alternative is going as planned. We’d like to get your opinion on this. . . .”

Pete: “. . . we spent the better part of two or three hours down there; and every time we’d get hot, we’d come up and take a rest. Now, if the temper­atures are coming down, I would like to stick with our original flight plan, and we’ll start activating it down there.”

Houston: “Okay. Our best estimate, Pete, is we’ll be below ioo degrees in there by tomorrow morning.”

"We Fix Anything&quot

2$. The sun-shield parasol, as deployed by the first crew of Skylab.

Pete: “Well, what do you think it was in there today?”

Houston: “We guess about 125.”

It was going to be pretty hot work. But the Multiple Docking Adapter was about sixty degrees — jacket weather. And the crew knew they’d be eat­ing, sleeping, and cooling off “upstairs” for the next several days.

Now Houston’s priority was to get Skylab back into solar inertial atti­tude —with the Apollo Telescope Mount pointing directly at the sun. This was both the coolest attitude, assuming the parasol worked, and by far the best for generating electricity from the Apollo Telescope Mount’s solar pan­els. Skylab had a very accurate system for pointing directly at the sun. It had a cluster of Fine Sun Sensors, which could measure the difference between Skylab’s attitude and the sun line within a tenth of a degree. But the error had to be less than ten degrees to start with; outside of that, the sun sensors themselves couldn’t find the sun. Houston was struggling now to get the cluster pointed within that ten-degree cone.

Houston, at 9:40 p. m.: “We’re going to take a look at the temperatures, and we think they’re coming down. We’re prepared to command solar iner­tial here over Hawaii.”

At 9:45 p. m., Houston: “Skylab, Houston. You’re on your way to solar inertial now.”

At 11:15, Paul: “We’re not in solar inertial, you know.”

Houston: “Roger. We assumed that we should be close to solar inertial attitude. We’re not solar inertial mode; we’ll be working that ourselves.”

Paul: “Well, you’re not even very close. . . . Do you know where to go?”

Houston (laughter): “Probably not.”

Pete: “Well. I’m looking out the window, and it looks as if you need a plus rotation about Y and a plus about x. And I’m not sure of the magnitude, but about 10 degrees or more.”

Houston: “Okay, what we’re going to do is put in a plus Y rotation of for­ty degrees, and a plus x rotation of fifteen degrees. If we don’t hack it this time, we’ll probably suggest turning it over to you. . . .”

Kerwin recalled: “Well, to make a long story short, they did turn it over to us, and we got it done. Pete and Paul looked out the sun-side window in the aft portion of the Multiple Docking Adapter, and when they agreed on an attitude correction, I’d put half of it in the Apollo Telescope Mount’s computer, and it would execute the maneuver. That way we got closer and closer without overshooting. When we all agreed we were well within ten degrees, we switched the mode to solar inertial. The atm said, in comput­er language, ‘Oh, there you are, sun!’ and finished the job. When all was steady, we built our final ‘how to find the sun again’ tool. When we were pointed precisely at the sun, the sun-facing window threw a bright oblong spot of sunlight on the opposite wall. We just carefully surrounded that spot with gray duct tape and went to bed. To my knowledge, no one ever had to use it again. But it was there if they did!”

On Mission Day 3, bedtime having been three hours late, wake-up was an hour and a half behind the preflight schedule—still behind and with a lot of activation challenges ahead, but getting closer.

7:24 a. m., Pete: “Hey, what time would we’ve gotten up this morning, if it was a normal wakeup?”

Houston: “Okay, we had you scheduled for about 1500 Zulu” [11:00 a. m. Houston time].

Pete: “I meant—we should have gotten up at 1100, right?”

Houston: “Roger, that’s the nominal time, Pete. But we were going to let you sleep late, since you didn’t get to bed until late last night.”

Pete: “Okay. Well, we’re slowly trying to work our way back to the nor­mal schedule. . . . Say, what’s your cooling look like?”

Houston: “Looks like we’ve been dropping about a degree an hour. We’ve got a lot of our measurements back on scale now. We’re showing some duct temperatures around ninety-five, ninety-eight degrees. . . .”

Breakfast was in the Command Module again. The wardroom hadn’t been activated yet, and it was too hot anyway. But they were eating well and enjoying it.

Pete: “I’m feeling pretty spunky. Got a good night’s sleep, just had a lit­tle sausage, a little scrambled eggs, and I’m working on my jam and bread, with a little coffee, goes pretty well this morning.”

Houston: “That sounds good to me. I haven’t had my breakfast yet.” Pete: “Sorry about that.”

As the crew began to get serious about workshop activation, little prob­lems and confusions popped up. The crew had their heads down trying to get the tasks done, and Houston was starved for information about where they were on the timeline—and in the vehicle. And all this was complicat­ed by the sporadic nature of communications.

Houston: “Skylab, Houston through Honeysuckle for six minutes. cdr, are you in the Command Module now?”

Pete: “No, sir. I’m in the wardroom.”

Houston: “Okay. . . .”

Pete: “What do you need?”

Houston: “Well, we’ve got a couple of things we’d like to get done up there, if it’s convenient for you to take a break.”

Pete: “Yes, I’m on my way. I’ll be there in a flash.”

And here’s Pete later in the day:

Pete: “The other thing we just finished spending a little time on was—we thought we had the urine system all rigged up and it wouldn’t work. I was the test subject and I had a big failure. And we went back and regrouped on it and we’ve concluded that you have to have a fecal bag in the thing. You have to have the fecal bag in a certain way or you just don’t get enough vac­uum through the urine system, enough flow, to pull urine down the urine tube. But the other two guys have been working on that down there for a while. They say it works ok.”

Houston: “Roger. Copy.”

And later.

Houston: “Skylab, Houston. We’ve got a dump maneuver starting now. You’re going to have to wait on that star tracker procedure. Wait until next daylight.”

Pete: “Okay, Henry. Nobody was quite sure who was supposed to do it, so it didn’t get done.”

Houston: “No sweat, don’t worry about it.”

Temperature reports were frequent throughout the day.

Pete (at 11:00 a. m.): “Hey, Houston. The biggest thing I can notice is the grid floor is beginning to cool compared to yesterday. Some of those oth­er lockers are bigger heat sources, but everything generally seems cooler in here, although still reading off scale high on the ows temp gauge.”

Paul: “Henry, as Pete mentioned this morning, it’s hot over by water tank one on that side of the Scientific Airlock. And just for information, there’s a lot of the metal-to-metal fittings that don’t fit too well at 130 degrees, like they did at 70. Had a pretty tough time getting the wardroom hose on water tank one, which is still hotter than a two-dollar pistol. . . .”

Paul (at 1:00 a. m., just before bedtime): “Tonight we dug out the per­sonal hygiene kit spares container and found that every tube of Keri hand cream in there had ruptured. I don’t know why. . . . Also, about two-thirds of the toothpaste has burst. And some of it has been cooked to the point where it is very, very thick and unusable any more. . . .”

But not everything was troublesome. As Pete had implied the previous evening, getting around the huge Skylab cluster was proving to be a joy.

Pete (at 11:17): “Hey, I’ll tell you there is no problem adapting, and you can go anywhere you want. You may get out of control a little bit en route, but you don’t bang into anything hard. And if you just take your time push­ing off, you can go anywhere you want in the vehicle. Just super fast!”

A few days later, Pete dislocated a finger while doing acrobatics around the ring lockers, but it slipped back into place easily. Dr. Kerwin applied a tongue depressor splint for the day, but Pete removed it after a couple of hours, and all was well. They mentioned it to Dr. Ross as a nonevent.

Pete’s evening report, delivered at about 9:00 p. m., showed that they were making progress toward blessed routine but were still behind the plan. Here’s a sample:

Pete: “. . . Today, Day 3, let me give you the urine volumes—cdr 210 ml, spt 160, plt 200. [Those volumes were for a partial day.] Today, we have no body mass for you. We have no exercise to give you. We’ll cover item Echo [medical status] on the private comm. tonight—although there isn’t anything to report. We’re in good health. And let me read you today’s food log. ‘The cdr ate everything today except corn. The reason for that was that the bag failed when inflating with water, and I got corn all over every­where. Now for yesterday, Joe calculated that I should have taken—and I did take—two calcium pills.’”

He repeated the food items skipped and supplements taken for Paul and Joe.

Houston: “Okay. We’d like to talk about the Flight Plan. How we saw things was perhaps—the first thing tomorrow is to just pick up where we left off and work on through, with a couple of exceptions. There will be a press conference tomorrow. . . and there will be a trim burn at about 01:07 [Greenwich Mean Time] — about a twenty-nine second burn time.”

Pete: “Okay, twenty-nine seconds, roughly.”

Houston: “That’s affirmative.”

Pete: “I figured I pushed so hard trying to dock the other night I almost deorbited the thing.”

Houston (laughter in background): “It’s still there.”

And so began the tradition of evening status report, always friendly, relaxed, and informative, just keeping everybody floating in the same direc­tion. The food and water data allowed the doctors to calculate supplement pill needs and have the information to the crew in the morning; the crew had a glance at tomorrow’s plans; and Houston could appraise where the crew was and how they felt about it.

So ended the third day.

Mission Day 4, 28 May, was a day of firsts:

First time the men were up on schedule—at 6:oo a. m. Houston time.

First breakfast in the wardroom.

First time for Joe to draw blood (theirs and his own), centrifuge it and freeze it for return.

First runs of the major medical experiments, lower body negative pressure (experiment number M092) and exercise tolerance on the bicycle ergometer (number M171).

Last, and maybe least, the first mention by Houston of the India­napolis 500 to Pete, a racecar driver himself and a big fan.

Houston: “Skylab, Houston. We’ve got you stateside for 16V2 minutes. Good morning.”

Paul: “Hi there. Our hands are full of bloody medical equipment, but we’ll recover, I think.”

Pete: “Hey, Bill. Joe just drew all three of us. That went very smoothly. . . cdr just finished shaving. Breakfast is cooking, and I think with a little luck at all, we might get on to a good routine. This is our first real crack at the post-sleep checklist, so we’ll get a good chance to see how long it takes us. . . . If it weren’t for the fact that we have such a spectacular view out the wardroom window, which we didn’t open until yesterday evening, late, I’d think we were back in Houston simming.”

Back on Earth, Rusty Schweickart and his backup crew were working on a spacewalk to pry loose Solar Panel 1. For several days they were still gath­ering information and comparing notes and opinions; a firm plan hadn’t yet taken shape. On the evening of Day 3, Paul had made a lengthy record­ing on Skylab’s tape recorder answering questions about the standup space­walk he’d done on Day 1. Rusty and the engineers wanted to get a very clear idea of how the strap was dug into the Solar Array System (sas) beam fair­ing so they could duplicate it on the underwater mockup and come up with a solution.

Later that day Rusty had a lengthy air-to-ground conversation with the crew. Pete opined that if a guy “had a crowbar he could pry with his feet against the Solar Array System beam and pry it right off of there. . . . Paul got that claw under it, but he couldn’t provide enough leverage. The claw is so short and the pole was so whippy that he couldn’t provide enough lever­age to pry it off of there. . .”

Rusty: “Roger. Copy. Do you think that you could have gotten the cut­ter (the limb lopper) around that strap down at the base, or did you try to get it around the strap?”

Pete: “No. I don’t think that cutter would have done it. . . . I’ll tell you what’s in the back of my mind right now. We have a pry bar in one of these tools, and I’m going to figure out a way to tether a crewman so when we go out and do our thing on Day 26, it’s worth our while to see if we can’t whin­ny around there.”

At this point, Conrad was still planning on attempting to free the stuck solar panel during the film-retrieval spacewalk scheduled at the end of the crew’s mission.

Rusty: “Roger, Pete. For your information we’re already working in the water tank trying to see what we can do along those lines. We’ve looked at the pictures—and we have determined that the tool we have on board will cut that strap. And we’re trying to determine if there is a place that you can get at the strap with the cutting tool. . . . If the strap is cut loose, do you believe that there’s anything else holding the beam down?”

Pete: “Not from the outside, Rusty, but. . . .”

A lengthy technical discussion followed. In summary, the answer was “maybe.”

Another item that would probably hold the solar panel cover (the Solar Array System beam) down even if the strap were cut was an internal damp­er, part of the hinge mechanism designed to prevent the sas beam from deploying too quickly. The wing’s designers were pretty sure that the cold temperatures aloft would have frozen the damper, and that somehow con­siderable pulling force was going to have to be exerted on the Solar Array System to break it free. Rusty’s team went away for four days after that talk and worked hard on a procedure. The crew would start working it again when the ground had a proposed solution. In the meantime, life had to con­tinue on the injured space station.

Living in Skylab was already generating a lot of trash. But Skylab had a very convenient place to put the trash and an elegant way of getting it there. At the bottom of the lower deck of the workshop was the Trash Airlock (tal), which was used to put trash into the s-ivb stage’s large liquid oxygen tank. To use it, a crewman opened the upper door and inserted a filled trash bag.

Then he closed and locked the upper door and opened the lower door into the liquid oxygen tank. Air in the Trash Airlock escaped immediately, but the bag had to be pushed out with a plunger. Once that was done, the lower

door could be closed and the Trash Airlock refilled with air, ready for reuse. Jamming of the Trash Airlock would be a huge problem: there just wasn’t any other place to put all the food waste, packaging, used urine bags, and so forth. It couldn’t happen. But it nearly happened.

Pete: “We almost thought we’d jammed the trash airlock yesterday. The bag that had the uctas [worn under the spacesuits on launch day] in it real­ly expanded. And we were just flat lucky to get that one out of there.”

Houston: “Don’t scare us like that.”

Pete: “Listen, don’t scare you: it scared us worse than it scared anybody else. So we’re taping our plastic urine bags. Just as a rule, I think we’ll tape things, and we’re only going to use about half the volume of the TAL, just to be on the safe side.”

At ten minutes before 2:00 p. m., Houston called.

Houston: “Skylab, Houston for the cdr.”

Joe: “Go ahead, Houston. He’s listening.”

Houston: “Thought he might be interested to know that the Indy race is in a hold for rain. However, the sun has come out and it looks like they might get a race off about fifteen past the hour. We show you’ll be going pretty close to Indy in about seven minutes. Why don’t you take a look at the clouds? If it looks good, drop the flag on them.”

Pete: “If I don’t get a chance to see it, then you all pass my word up there that I wish them all the best of luck—to all my friends that are driving.”

Temperatures in the workshop were still about ninety-five degrees as the crew prepared for the first major medical runs. And Lower Body Negative Pressure was expected to be a bit stressful. It was a clever simulation of gravi­ty’s effect on blood distribution and thus on how hard the heart had to work to maintain blood pressure. Here’s how it worked: the subject inserted him­self feet first into a metal cylinder (think of a slender garbage can) up to the waist, wrapping an airtight rubberized cloth seal around his waist. Then air was pulled out of the can, reducing the pressure around the legs and low­er abdomen. This would cause blood to pool in the lower half of the body, as though the subject were standing erect in gravity. (A familiar example of the effect would be “parade ground faint.”) Blood pressure and heart rate would be monitored to see how the heart responded to this loss of available blood. This would be an indirect test of whether the astronaut subject was going to have trouble after return to Earth at the end of the mission. Since the amount of blood in circulation was known to decrease in space, it was thought that a gradual decrease in tolerance might be seen.

Kerwin, in view of the high temperatures, recommended that on the first run only the smallest increment of pressure be tested—30 millimeters of mercury, about V2 pound per square inch, and that the exercise experiment likewise be restricted only to the first and second levels. Houston concurred with restricting Lower Body Negative Pressure but asked that Paul Weitz, the first subject, try to go the full protocol on the ergometer. At 7:00 p. m. Kerwin reported how things had gone.

Joe: “Okay. [Lower Body Negative Pressure] was interesting. We ran the whole run, 30, 40, 50, because the numbers looked okay as we went. He had at least twice the increase in leg volume that I’ve ever seen before, but his figures [blood pressure and heart rate] were normal.

“Then we went to [the exercise experiment], and as a lot of us had suspect­ed, we’ve got a significant mechanical efficiency problem in riding the bike.

. . . We terminated the run with a little under three minutes to go, both for that reason and because of an obvious thermal problem. It’s just too hot in there to go 200 watts on the bicycle. And while we will run M17K, pending resolution of the. . . problems, I’m going to strongly recommend against running at the top step.”

The design of the ergometer had received a lot of attention. How did one ride a bicycle in zero-G? Your feet wouldn’t stay on the pedals, and your behind wouldn’t stay on the seat. Without restraints of some kind, you’d float away whenever you pushed. The first insight was to use special shoes to attach the feet to the pedals. And since Skylab’s triangular grid pattern was already being used for foot restraints, that design was adopted for the pedals. It worked well.

To restrain the rest of the body called for a more complex device. The astro­nauts had asked Dr. Story Musgrave, Kerwin’s backup as Skylab 1 science pilot, to tackle the problem. Story had worked with the ergometer designers at Marshall and come up with a sophisticated answer: a padded waist belt with adjustable straps to attach it to the floor and a shoulder harness with adjustable straps as well. There were also adjustments available for the han­dlebar, the seat height, and the seat’s fore and aft position—like the driver’s seat on a modern car. All the crewmen had worked out with this harness and found their favorite adjustments, and a large cue card was created with each person’s numbers. What could possibly go wrong?

A lot. At the lowest workload things went pretty well. But when Paul increased the resistance and pushed harder, the waist belt’s straps began to dig into his thighs, cutting off circulation to the legs. Restrained by the har­ness, he couldn’t rise up off the seat like you do on Earth when you’re ped­aling rapidly. His legs hurt too much to finish the run.

At day’s end, Pete reported to Mission Control that they were still not caught up.

Pete (8:18 p. m.) : “We’ve been running pretty full blower. And all these extra goodies have been coming up. . . . So we need to do some catching up. . . . And it looks like, one of these days, we are going to have to halt for about a couple of hours anyway to gi the place if we’re going to keep it clean.” [“gi” was slang for soldier.]

A little later, he asked Houston to set up a private communication the next day between himself, the flight director, Chris Kraft, and Deke Slay­ton. He said, “It’s not anything other than I want to just talk to them. It’s no emergency or anything like that.” And it wasn’t. Pete just liked direct con­tact with the bosses to make sure they knew we were ok and to give them his slant on the mission. He was a great communicator.

He was good at relaxing too—better in this case than the somewhat har­ried science pilot:

Pete (8:30 p. m.): “Hey, Joe, do you know where the binoculars are?”

Joe: “They were in A-9 last time I looked.”

Pete: “We’re catching up with some satellite down here. You ought to come down and look out the window at it.”

Joe: “I’m busy.”

Pete: “ok.”

Mission Day 5 was the day the Apollo Telescope Mount experiments got

powered up for the first time. Kerwin saw the first beautiful, sharp images from the н-alpha camera, the extreme ultraviolet camera, and the camera that showed continuously what humans had before seen only during rare total eclipses—the solar corona. Still to come were x-ray images. He record­ed video, used the TV downlink to show the ground real-time images, and began the slow process of learning how to use the views to recognize and interpret active regions, to spot flares early in their brief violent lifetimes, and to watch for other solar phenomena. The real solar physicists on Earth envied him this visual feast.

Pete at lunchtime: “Hey, we’re all congregated in the head, all for differ­ent reasons. Why don’t you go ahead and slip us the news?”

Houston did—mostly who was making what speeches on Memorial Day.

This afternoon both Conrad and Kerwin got to tackle the bike and the Lower Body Negative Pressure. Pete tried the hardest—he was determined to come back from this mission in good shape—and his heart rate exceed­ed 180 as he tried to ride his three minutes at 75 percent of maximum. He couldn’t do it, and he experienced a couple of irregular heartbeats—prema­ture ventricular contractions—while he was trying. Kerwin couldn’t do it either. The harness problem was not going to go away; it was time for an onboard campaign to solve it. As to the Lower Body Negative Pressure, the heart rates, and symptoms on both Pete and Joe didn’t look all that differ­ent from preflight—yet.

While the crew was pondering the harness problem, the doctors in Hous­ton were seriously concerned. They had committed to twenty-eight days in orbit—despite the Biosatellite monkey’s fate and the disconcerting death of the cosmonauts — on the basis that exercise tolerance and Lower Body Neg­ative Pressure testing on orbit would show that the crew remained fit and able to deal with reentry and landing. But already the crew seemed unable to reach the desired exercise levels. Conferences were held. The medical peo­ple didn’t see Pete’s irregular heartbeats until Day 8, due to the complexities of getting experiment data sent to the ground and distributed. When they did, their concerns went up another notch.

Meanwhile the crew pressed on. Power conservation still came first.

Pete (7:30 p. m.): “Hey Joe, did you say we can’t use the event timer [on the Apollo Telescope Mount]?”

Joe: “That’s right.”

Pete: “Is that for power considerations only, or is there something wrong with it?”

Joe: “The power.”

Pete: “ok.”

Joe (9:00 p. m.): “Weitz, you left your blower on.” [In the waste manage­ment compartment.]

Paul: “How could I?”

Joe: “Well. . . .”

Paul: “What can I say, dear? I’ll try harder. . . .”

They increased their skill in zero-G operations:

Pete (9:05 p. m.): “We have put to bed, once and for all, the question of ‘Can you run around the water ring lockers?’ I have just made ten trips around the water ring lockers, and the spt has made five; which means he owes Ed Gibson a steak dinner, and Dr. Faget was right.” [Max Faget, the brilliant engineer who had designed the blunt reentry shape of the Com­mand Module, had bet the crew could do it.]

And they began to get personal with the onboard voice recorder:

Joe (10:18 p. m.): “Hey, sweet, lovely в Channel. Your lonely spt, who is hungering for human companionship, would like to report the serial num­bers of the—damn!—tubes for tomorrow’s blood letting.”

Pete and Joe: (Laughter)

At evening status report, Houston gave the crew a thermal forecast.

Houston: “The average internal temperature has shown a 5-degree drop over the last 24 hours. The magnitude of the drop per day is slowing down. . . . There may be a small portion—less than 10% of the parasol that is not doing its job as a radiator. We will probably stabilize out in the neighbor­hood of 80 degrees. . . .”

Pete: “Okay. I know where that 10% is. You can run your hands around the wall and find it real easy.”

Houston: “Be advised—Indianapolis—you guys are going to be overhead at 12:36 Zulu, almost right overhead. That’s 7:36 in the morning local, so if the weather’s clear you ought to be able to look straight down and watch the cars warming up.”

Mission Day 6 began following the first night all three slept in their sleep compartments. They said it was still a little warm, but they slept well and felt spunky. Houston read up the news, including these bits:

And the Texas legislature has voted to restore the death penalty in certain cases

The engagement of Princess Anne, daughter of Queen Elizabeth II, was announced today in England. The Princess will marry a commoner, Cavalry officer Lieutenant Martin Phillips….

Again the Indianapolis yoo was postponed until hopefully this morning.. ..

People in nearby Dallas are concerned with a mysterious ooze called ‘the blob ’ which first appeared about two weeks ago, up through a suburban back yard.

There was going to be good news and some more trouble for Skylab this day. The good news came with the first run of the M131 Vestibular Function experiment at 9:30 a. m.

M131 was not a crew favorite. It was a complex medical experiment designed to explore the function of the balance system in weightlessness. The princi­pal investigator was Dr. Ashton Graybiel of the Navy’s School of Aerospace Medicine in Pensacola, Florida—a distinguished, experienced scientist and a wonderfully gracious gentleman. A couple of times, he even lent his red convertible to crewmembers who’d come to Pensacola for testing.

Several tests were part of M131, and most of them were easy and interest­ing. But one of the tests was designed to find out what happened to people’s susceptibility to motion sickness in space. And to do that, he had to — well, make them sick. The subject would strap himself into a rotating chair and put on a tiny blindfold consisting of two small eye cups on an elastic band (the crew called it “Minnie’s Bra,” referring to Minnie Mouse). Then the observer would start the chair rotating at a rate selected before flight, and the subject would begin to move his head slowly forward and back and side to side at a steady pace. On the ground, this action would result in unpleas­ant symptoms after about seventy head movements. Graybiel had defined a symptom complex called “Malaise ill” — which meant you usually threw up. The crew objected violently to this, and he backed off to “Malaise iia,” which meant pallor, sweating, stomach awareness, then nausea. If you stopped right away you wouldn’t throw up, but it was not fun. Minnie’s bra had to be small so that the observer could detect the subject turning pale.

It was agreed that this was an important test. There’d been quite a bit of motion sickness reported in the Russian space program. (Second crew sci­ence pilot Owen Garriott recalled: “We were told that the Russians were beginning to wonder why only they experienced space sickness, when Amer­icans were apparently immune! There are several reasons, probably related to the volume available for crew mobility, but that’s another story.”) There were also several suspected cases in NASA’s Apollo program, including most notably Apollo 9’s Rusty Schweickart.

The Space Shuttle was already being debated in Congress; it called for an astronaut to land the orbiter manually, a task involving considerable skill; no one wanted to trust it to a motion-sick pilot. NASA was even slightly averse to using the term. The researchers had begun to call it “Space Adaptation Syndrome.” The crew still called it dsms for “Dreaded Space Motion Sick­ness.” And the Skylab crew didn’t want to compromise their safety either. For the first mission, they requested that the commander, Pete Conrad, be excused from the Motion Sickness Susceptibility test. That way he’d always be ready to fly home if an emergency took place aboard Skylab. Management readily agreed, and so did the ever-cooperative Dr. Graybiel.

Today would be the first test. Paul Weitz, the lucky one, was scheduled to be the subject, Kerwin the observer. Paul had not had motion sickness in the first days of the flight, and he didn’t relish getting it now — even though the first series of head movements would be made with no rotation. He passed with flying colors. He made 150 head movements, the maximum allowed, with none of the symptoms of motion sickness. He had some sensation of rotation, “as if my gyros were being tumbled,” but felt fine.

What was going on? On Day 7, Kerwin underwent the test with rotation, (seven and one-half revolutions per minute was his number), and went 150 head movements with no symptoms. It was decided to increase the revolu­tions in steps. On Days 12, 16, 20, and 24, Joe and Paul were tested, until they were spinning at the maximum safe value of thirty revolutions per minute. No symptoms occurred. Both the crew and investigators were amazed. Pete had been let off the hook for nothing. It seemed that in zero-G, once you were adapted, you were immune to space motion sickness. This was pretty good news for the Shuttle program.

The other big Day 6 event was the first “erep Pass.” erep stood for “Earth Resources Experiment Package,” Skylab’s complex of cameras designed to take multispectral, high-resolution, three-dimensional photographs of ground

and ocean locations of scientific interest. The crew would call them “tar­gets,” but some NASA folks thought that sounded too military.

Skylab normally pointed its upper side, and the Apollo Telescope Mount solar experiments, directly at the sun. It retained this attitude on both the day and night sides of the orbit for two reasons: it required minimum fuel, and it also kept the solar panels perpendicular to the sun whenever the spacecraft was in sunlight—for maximum electrical power. Since at that point Skylab had only the Apollo Telescope Mount solar panels, energy was marginal.

What did this have to do with Earth Resources? In order to point those Earth cameras directly at the planet, Skylab had to maneuver out of solar inertial attitude into local vertical. In local vertical mode, the side of Skylab opposite the atm was pointed straight down at the Earth at dawn. Then a gentle pitch rate was begun, which rotated Skylab gently nose down, keep­ing the cameras pointed directly at the Earth for most of one day-side half orbit.

As the locations of interest passed beneath the spacecraft, the various cam­eras would be operated, often in conjunction with low-altitude photography by aircraft and sometimes observations by scientists on the surface. That done, Skylab would rotate back to solar inertial attitude.

The pass was scheduled for between 3:00 and 4:00 p. m. — daylight over the United States. The local vertical maneuver was initiated a little after three, and by 3:30 Pete and Paul were busily photographing sites.

Pete: “Ready—do mode auto.”

Paul: “I found it. How about that? Looking through a little hole in the clouds.”

Pete: “What did you find?”

Paul: “I found the site. . . . Okay. On White Sands and Tracking.”

Skylab sliced rapidly across the United States from northwest to south­east at four miles a second. With a lot of good film in the can, they shut the cameras down and returned to solar inertial attitude about 4:00 p. m. As they did, the crew noticed a battery charge light that shouldn’t have been on. The bad news was about to happen.

Houston (5:40 p. m.): “cdr, Houston. . . Could you do a little favor for us? We’d like to get regulators 6, 7, 8 and 16 off the line.”

Pete: “Okay.”

Houston: “Roger, copy. And also, for information, we’re going to be pow­ering down the epc [the atm’s Experiment Pointing Control system] to con­serve power. And we’ll also be turning down the airlock module’s second­ary coolant loop.”

Pete: “Okay. What’d we do, run lots more [power] than you thought?”

Houston: “Negative. . . but a few of the batteries went down. . . .”

Houston (5:45 p. m.): “Skylab, Houston, we’d like to hold up on the M131 run ’til we get into daylight.”

Paul: “What for, Hank? We’re halfway through the ogi [Oculogyral Illu­sion, one of the vestibular system tests] Mode now.”

Houston: “Well, we’ve got—we’ve got a power problem here.”

They sure did. What had happened was that several batteries reached a state of charge of less than 45 percent during the Earth Resources pass, and their controllers took them off the line—they weren’t recharging. The next hour was spent turning things off and trying to get the batteries to recharge. By 6:50 Houston was able to report, “As we go over the hill here, it looks like the electrical power system is at least stable now. The batter­ies are coming up. So we’ll see you at Vanguard. . . . And Pete, the Indy’s over now. It got stopped by rain in 130 something laps, and Gordy John – cock was the winner.”

The Group 5 Rookies

Of all of the groups of astronauts, the fifth—jokingly self-dubbed “The Orig­inal Nineteen” in a nod to the Mercury “Original Seven”—had the most diverse fates when it came to their eventual spaceflight assignments. Nine of them would make their first flights during the Apollo program (Charles Duke, Ronald Evans, Fred Haise, James Irwin, T. K. Mattingly, Edgar Mitchell, Stuart Roosa, John Swigert, and Alfred Worden), with three of them (Duke, Irwin, and Mitchell) walking on the moon. Four would make their rookie flights during the Skylab program (Jerry Carr, Jack Lousma, Bill Pogue, and Paul Weitz); one during the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (astp) (Vance Brand); and three would not fly into orbit until the Space Shuttle began operations (Joe Engle, Don Lind, and Bruce McCandless; Engle had flown to the edge of space on the experimental x-15 plane before joining the astronaut corps). One of the members, Ed Givens, died before flying a mis­sion, and another, John Bull, developed a medical condition that disquali­fied him from flight status.

Group 5 member Paul Weitz, who made his first flight as part of the first Skylab crew, said that he does not remember any indication being made when his class joined the corps what their role would be, which he said he could live with: “I can’t speak for anyone else, but I just wanted to get an opportunity to fly in space.”

Even if no formal promise regarding their role had been made, some mem­bers of the group had some expectations. “When we were brought onboard, there was no end at Apollo 20,” Jack Lousma said. “We were going to land on the moon before the end of the decade, and we’re going to explore the moon. And there was no end to the number of Saturn missions there was going to

The Group 5 Rookies

6. Members of the third Skylab crew: (from left) Jerry Carr, Ed Gibson, and Bill Pogue.

be, the number of Saturn flights, Saturn vs, or the number of landings on the moon. It was going to start with the landing, and then it was going to be increased duration, staying on the moon up to a month. And they were going to orbit the moon for two months; I guess that was more of a recon­naissance type of thing.”

The members of the Original Nineteen were competing for missions both with one other and with their predecessors still in the corps, a compe­tition made even tighter by the cancellation of Apollo missions 18 though 20. “I was very much disappointed that the last three missions to the moon were canceled—I thought I had a chance of making one of those missions,” Weitz said.

While there may not have been much overt competition among the Group 5 astronauts for the remaining Apollo berths, Weitz said, “It became obvious that some of the folks were doing their best to position themselves to punch the right cards to be considered for early flights. But everyone wanted to fly as soon as possible, and I think that no one was consciously considering giv­ing up on Apollo-era flights so that they might get an early Shuttle flight.”

Though he had been disappointed with the cancellation of the last three Apollo missions, Weitz said that he was pleased with his eventual rookie assignment. “I really enjoyed flying Skylab with Pete and Joe, and I thought we did our part to further the benefits of human space research.”

Jack Lousma said, “I was a little naive. I wasn’t a politician; I’d never been in a political organization. I just figured, the harder I work, the better I do. That wasn’t good for this particular system, but I wasn’t smart enough to know that. Moreover, I didn’t know anybody when I came. A lot of the oth­er guys had worked with each other on different projects in the Air Force and things, and I was just kind of a lone ranger. And I was the youngest guy selected, most junior, least experienced. So it seemed as though the people that had more experience, were a little bit older, or had done differ­ent things than I had were selected before me. Like Fred Haise was selected for the Lunar Module. Ed Mitchell worked on that. They were senior guys. And Fred was such a competent guy in aviation. So I was just going to do my best and work as hard as I could and see what happened, and if it came to a point where I had to be more overt about this, I would have felt that I’d earned the right to speak up.

“There was some amount of politics to the system of selection, but for the most part I felt that Deke Slayton was a fair guy, and I thought he selected the right people for the right job. I felt that everybody there was qualified to handle any mission that would come their way, but I felt that the selec­tions as Deke made them were fair. He would come in and assign maybe two crews for a couple of Apollo flights, assign a backup crew, make a few guys happy and a lot of guys mad. But he would always say, ‘And if you don’t like that, I’ll be glad to change places with you.’ And nobody could refute that. ’Cause poor old Deke, he still hadn’t flown at all.”

Lousma was one of the members of Group 5 who reached a point where he was confident the moon was within his grasp, only to have it snatched away. Upon joining the corps he had originally been put on a different track as one of the first members of his class to be assigned to Apollo Applica­tions rather than to Apollo. Even before he had completed his initial astro­naut training, Lousma was tapped to work on an instrument for one of the lunar-orbit aap flights that was planned at the time. Lousma had come to the astronaut corps from a background in military reconnaissance, and so was a perfect fit for the project, which involved using a classified Air Force high-resolution reconnaissance camera attached to an orbiting Apollo cap­sule to study the surface of the moon.

After Lousma had spent a year working on that project, however, the planned mission was canceled, and he was back to square one. It seemed, though, that fortune was smiling on him. Fred Haise, who had been the corps’ lead for Lunar Module testing and checkout, had been assigned to the backup crew for Apollo 11, which meant he would then be rotating up to prime a few flights later. (Under the standard rotation, Haise would have been Lunar Module pilot for Apollo 14, but Alan Shepard’s return to active flight status bumped the original 14 crew up to Apollo 13.) The corps need­ed someone to take the Lunar Module assignment that Haise had vacat­ed, and at the same time Lousma needed a new ground assignment. The fit was perfect.

While serving as Lunar Module support crew for Apollo 9 and 10, Lous – ma was also scrounging time in the lander simulator whenever he could. “By the time all of that was said and done, I had seven hundred hours in the Lunar Module simulator, plus all the knowledge that went with the systems of how the lunar module worked,” Lousma said. “Al Bean, when he flew, wanted the Lunar Module malfunction procedures revised, so I did that for him. I knew how this thing worked. So I figured I was probably destined for a Lunar Module mission.

“Before they canceled the last three missions, as I recall there was a cadre of fifteen guys that all worked together to somehow populate the last three missions; and some of them were guys that had flown already, and some of them weren’t. Once it got to this cadre of fifteen guys, I don’t remember there being any politics there. I wasn’t involved if there was. I was just real­ly focused on doing the best I could and qualifying on my own. I felt I was ready to do it. I was not a political person. I don’t think Deke was much of a political person at all. He was somewhat predictable in that the guys who had been there the longest were going to fly first. And in that group of peo­ple, probably the guys that were going to fly first were a little bit more senior, militarily speaking, and I was a junior guy; I was twenty-nine years old.

“That’s the way Deke worked. I think Jerry Carr would have flown to the moon before me. Jerry was senior to me in the Marines, so I’m not going to fly before him. The way it worked out on Skylab was I ended up flying before Jerry. And to offset that, Deke assigned Jerry to be the command­er, not just the ride-along guy on the third Skylab mission. That’s the way his mind worked. So to some extent, he was kind of predictable for people who were coming up through the ranks. He was kind of unpredictable for guys who had already flown. So there was probably more politics between those guys than there was between me and my friends. Deke never wanted much politics, I don’t think.

“I don’t know if I’d have been going to the moon or not, but there were three flights there for which I was eligible, and I was a Lunar Module-trained guy, so I thought I was definitely going on one of them.”

But, of course, it was not to be. The final three planned Apollo missions were canceled and with them went the hopes of Lousma and the others that they might reach the moon. With those missions canceled, Skylab became the next possible ticket to space for the unflown members of Group 5 (and their Group 4 predecessors). But even after the nine Skylab astronauts were told they had been assigned to the flights, some still had a sense of uncer­tainty, particularly in the wake of the cancellation of the last three Apol­lo flights.

“The Skylab missions were always threatened to not fly for a long long time,” Lousma said. “It was never sure until the last six months or a year that the Skylab was going to get to fly. There were those that said, ‘Let’s save the money and put it in the Shuttle.’ So I always felt like I could lose that Sky – lab mission, even when I was training for it.

“Somehow I found out that there was probably going to be a flight with the Russians and probably Tom Stafford was going to command that. May­be it was common knowledge, maybe it wasn’t. But I decided that if Sky – lab doesn’t fly, I’m going to be ready for the next thing. So I went while I was training for Skylab and took a one-semester course in the Russian lan­guage, took the exams and documented it and all that sort of thing, turned it in with my records, and said, ‘Here you go, Deke, in case you’re looking for a guy to go on the Russian flight, well, I’ve got a little head start on the language thing.’ It turns out that before we went on the Skylab mission I knew I was going to be on the backup crew for the Russian flight. It didn’t matter then, because Skylab was going, so backup was okay. But I remem­ber being concerned about Skylab not flying.”

Lousma said he is frequently asked if he felt that Skylab was a poor conso­lation prize for the lunar flight he missed out on. “ ‘Going on a space station mission instead of going to the moon, did you feel bad about it?’ Heck no, I didn’t,” he said. “I thought any ride was a good ride. And I felt that there weren’t that many rides to go around, so this was going to be all right. But moreover, we were doing things that hadn’t been done before. This is what I

think the lure was for most of our guys, to do things that hadn’t been done. All the things that Apollo did, we became operationally competent in.

“We knew we could fly in space. The question was, could we survive in space for long periods of time in weightlessness, and moreover could we do useful work. [Skylab] proved that this could be done, and it also demon­strated that evas in zero-gravity were doable if you were properly trained and had the right equipment and had been properly prepared. And we didn’t really know that either.”

The term “zero-G” is frequently used to indicate when things appear to be “weightless.” When flying in space, crewmembers do feel weightless, and they really are, but not because there isn’t any gravity at their altitude, about 435 km (270 miles) above the Earth for Skylab. In fact, the force of Earth’s gravity is about 87 percent as strong there as it is on the ground. The essential difference is that on Skylab the crews were in what physicists call “free-fall,” meaning that there was nothing to support their weight, like the ground or a chair. Instead, they were falling freely toward the center of the Earth, our “center of gravity,” just like a diver or a gymnast does until they hit water or the ground. So to be more precise, the free-fall toward the Earth’s cen­ter is the source of the apparent weightlessness in space. Space flyers do not hit the Earth because they are traveling so fast that their orbit just matches the curvature of the Earth and the Earth’s surface drops away from beneath them just as quickly as they fall toward it. When “zero-g” is used to mean weightlessness, this is what the correct explanation should be.

While in-space evas had been carried out successfully in the final Gemi­ni flights and then in Apollo, Lousma noted that they were nothing like the spacewalks performed during Skylab. The Skylab spacewalks were much longer and, unlike the earlier carefully planned and prepared spacewalks, involved responding to situations as they occurred.

“We were the first real test of whether you could have a useful space lab­oratory, and you could do scientific experiments of all sorts that we never did in Apollo, and get useful data back, and investigate things that had not been investigated before,” Lousma said. “I didn’t get to go to the moon, but I got to do something which was one-of-a-kind, first of a kind, to demon­strate all of those things that we were wanting to know and had to learn to go to the next step, and that’s the one that we’re going to take in the next couple of decades. From that point of view, I think Skylab is NASA’s best –

kept secret. We learned so many things that we didn’t know, and we did so many things for the first time.”

Like most of the members of the early groups of astronauts, Jerry Carr’s path to becoming an astronaut began with a love of aeronautics developed in his youth. For Carr, who was born in 1932 and raised in Santa Ana, Califor­nia, that interest was first spurred during World War 11, when he would spot airplanes, including experimental aircraft flying overhead through the south­ern California sky. He and a friend would ride bicycles fourteen miles to the airport on Saturdays, where they would spend the entire morning washing airplanes. In compensation for his efforts, he would be paid with a twenty – minute flight. During his senior year in high school, he became involved in the Naval Reserve. He was assigned to a fighter jet and was given the respon­sibility of keeping it clean and checking the fuel and fluid levels.

After high school Carr attended the University of Southern California through the Naval rotc and earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engi­neering in 1954. Following his graduation, Carr became a Marine aviator. After five years of service, he was selected for the Naval Postgraduate School, where he earned a second bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering in 1961. Carr was then sent to Princeton University and earned a master’s degree in the same field a year later.

Three years later, he saw the announcement that NASA was seeking can­didates for its fifth group of astronauts. He made the decision to apply on a whim. He was friends with C. C. Williams, who had been selected in the third group of astronauts in 1963. Carr figured if Williams could make it, he was curious to see how far through the process he could go. On April Fool’s Day in 1966, Carr learned just how far he had gone when he received a call from Capt. Alan Shepard informing him that he had been selected to the astronaut corps.

Jack Lousma wasn’t always going to be a pilot. Sure, Lousma, who was born in 1936 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, loved airplanes as a kid, building mod­els and going out to watch them land and take off. And he had two cousins who were pilots and still remembers the time one of them flew a jet over his farm so low “I could almost see his eyeballs,” as he recalled in a NASA oral his­tory interview. But Lousma wasn’t always going to be a pilot. Through high school and into college, he planned to be a businessman. However, during his sophomore year, he says, he decided he just couldn’t figure the business classes out and decided to get into engineering. And as long as he was going into engineering, he did love airplanes, and the University of Michigan did have a great aeronautical engineering program.

While completing his bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering, though, he saw a lot of movie footage of fast-flying jet airplanes. And so he decided the best thing for an engineer who planned to design planes to do would be to learn to fly them. After being turned down by the Air Force and Navy because he was married, he found out that the Marines not only had air­planes, they had a program that would take married people. After complet­ing his training and deciding he wanted to make a career of the Marines, he went on to attend the Naval Postgraduate School, earning a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering.

Lousma had reached the point where he was starting to look for new chal­lenges when he heard that NASA was selecting its fifth group of astronauts, and he decided that fit the bill perfectly. His application process was near­ly cut short, however, by a requirement that candidates not be over six feet tall. According to his last flight physical, Lousma was 6 feet i. The Marines Corps, which screened his astronaut application, agreed to give him a “spe­cial measurement” by his flight surgeon. This one came out to 5 feet, 11 7/8 inches. “I was really 5 foot, 13 inches, but I didn’t tell anybody,” he joked.

Garriott notes that at the time of their Skylab flight, Lousma had only had nine birthdays, having been born on 29 February. “But ‘the Marine’ acts in a much more mature manner, and if there ever was a true ‘All Amer­ican Boy’ in a quite positive sense, this is your man,” he said.

Bill Pogue also was fascinated by airplanes in his youth but like Lousma had plans for his life that did not include being a pilot. Fate, however, had other plans, and Pogue ended up thrust into following his childhood fasci­nation. Born in 1930 in Okemah, Oklahoma, Pogue planned during high school and college to be a high-school math or physics teacher, following in his father’s schoolteacher footsteps. Pogue earned a bachelor’s degree in edu­cation at Oklahoma Baptist University. After the Korean War broke out, though, Pogue decided it looked like he was going to be drafted and enlist­ed in the Air Force. He was sent to flight-training school and then to Korea, where he was a fighter bomber pilot. In the six weeks before the armistice, he flew a total of forty-three missions, bombing trains and providing air support for troops.

An assignment to leave Korea to serve as a gunnery instructor at Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix, Arizona, proved to be fortuitous when after two years there he was asked to join a recently formed group based at Luke—the Thunderbirds air demonstration unit.

When he left the Thunderbirds, Pogue was given his choice of assignment, and he asked to be allowed to earn his master’s degree. He was reassigned to Oklahoma State University, where he earned his master’s in mathematics. About halfway through a five-year tour of duty as a math instructor at the Air Force Academy, he successfully petitioned to be allowed to work toward a goal of becoming an astronaut. He attended the Empire Test Pilot School in England. After completing that, he spent a couple more years there and then transferred to Edwards Air Force Base. Before he even moved there, however, he learned that NASA was selecting a new group of astronauts, and from his first day at Edwards, he was already working to leave Edwards to join NASA.

Unlike Lousma and Pogue, Paul Weitz did always want to be a pilot. Spe­cifically, Weitz, born in 1932 in Erie, Pennsylvania, wanted to be a pilot for the Navy. His father was a chief petty officer in the Navy and during World War II was in the Battle of Midway and the Battle of Coral Sea. That made a deep impression on Weitz, and by the time he was around eleven, he had decided he was going to be a naval aviator.

Toward that end he attended Penn State on a Navy rotc scholarship, completing his time there with a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engi­neering and a commission as an ensign. An instructor there advised Weitz that if he wanted to make the Navy a career, he should begin by going to sea, so he spent a year and a half on a destroyer before going to flight train­ing. From there he spent four years with a squadron in Jacksonville, Flori­da, where he met Alan Bean.

The next few years of Weitz’s life were not necessarily as he would have planned them. After initially being turned down for test-pilot school, he was accepted for the next class but not until he had already been ordered across the country for an air development squadron. Since the Navy had just moved him from one coast to the other, they refused to move him back for test-pilot school. At last after two years he received unsolicited orders to attend the Naval Postgraduate School, where he was in the same group as Jack Lous – ma and Ron Evans, who went on to be the Command Module pilot for the Apollo 17 mission. Further complicating the situation, Weitz found him­self allowed only two years at a school where a master’s degree was a three – year program. With the aid of sympathetic professors, he was able to earn his master’s in aeronautical engineering in the two years he had.

The next year, he made a combat tour in Vietnam. While in the west­ern Pacific, he got a message from the Bureau of Naval Personnel asking if he would like to apply to be an astronaut. Though Weitz had never given the matter any thought before, he decided that he would, indeed, like to be an astronaut.

Those nine men would make up the crews of the three Skylab missions. Pete Conrad and Al Bean, the two veteran astronauts, became the commanders of the first two Skylab crews. Conrad was joined by pilot Paul Weitz and science pilot Joe Kerwin. Bean’s crew consisted of himself, pilot Jack Lous – ma, and science pilot Owen Garriott. Rookie Jerry Carr was assigned as the commander for the third crew, joined by pilot Bill Pogue and science pilot Ed Gibson.

One veteran and five rookies made up the backup crews for the three Skylab missions. Rusty Schweickart, the Lunar Module pilot for the Earth – orbit Apollo 9 mission, was the commander of the backup crew for the first mission, joined by pilot Bruce McCandless and science pilot Story Mus – grave. Commander Vance Brand, pilot Don Lind and science pilot Bill Lenoir (Lenoir and Musgrave were members of the second group of scien­tist astronauts NASA selected) served as the backup crew for both the second and third Skylab missions.

The first crew chose for their mission patch an image depicting the Earth eclipsing the sun, with a “top-down” view of a silhouetted Skylab in the fore­ground. The patch was designed by science-fiction artist Kelly Freas.

The second crew’s patch, with a red, white, and blue color scheme, fea­tured Leonardo da Vinci’s famous Vitruvian Man drawing of the human form in front of a circle, half of which showed the western hemisphere of the Earth, and the other half depicted the sun, complete with solar flares. The patch reflected the three main goals of their mission—biomedical research, Earth observation, and solar astronomy.

The Group 5 Rookies

7- (Clockwisefrom top left) The Skylab i mission patch, the Skylab 11 patch, the Skylab 11 “wives’ patch,” and the Skylab ill patch.

The third crew’s patch featured a prominent digit “3” with a rainbow semi­circle joining it to enclose three round areas. In those three areas were depic­tions of a human silhouette, a tree, and a hydrogen atom. The imagery on the patch symbolized man’s role in the balance of technology and nature.

There was one other Skylab “mission patch,” a companion to the second crew’s patch. The wives of the three Skylab 11 astronauts had been involved in the creation of that mission’s patch, and decided they wanted to do some­thing a little extra. Working with local artist Ardis Settle, who had contrib­uted to the official patch, and French space correspondent Jacques Tiziou, they created their own Skylab 11 “wives’ patch.” The central male nude fig­ure drawn by Leonardo had been replaced with a similar but much more attractive female nude and the crew names altered to Sue, Helen Mary, and Gratia.

“One of our first tasks when reaching orbit was to unpack our ‘flight data file,’ carried up in our csm [Command Service Module],” Garriott said. “What we did not expect to see when we unpacked our individual ‘small change sheets’ and ‘check lists’ was a new crew patch with a much more memorable female nude in the center!”