Skylab, the First U.S. Space Station, Changed What We Thought Was Possible in Orbit


Photo: NASA

Each of the three Skylab missions set new space duration records, with the Skylab 2 mission lasting for 28 days, Skylab 3 for 59 days, and the third and final mission, Skylab 4, lasting for 84 days—a record that stood for 20 years and was finally broken during the Shuttle-Mir program. Skylab 4 launched on November 15, 1973 and ended on February 8, 1974.

Planners initially overextended the Skylab 4 astronauts, leading to “frustrations as the astronauts struggled to keep up with the blistering pace of the timeline, allowing no time for familiarization or to recover from errors and hardware malfunctions,” according to Uri, adding that repeated requests by the crew to mission controllers to “lighten their schedule went unheeded for several weeks, leading to tension between the crew and the ground.” Skylab’s flight director later admitted that planners made mistakes during the opening stages of the Skylab 4 mission. Media claims made later that Carr, Gibson, and Pogue went on a one-day strike on December 27, 1973 were unfounded, according to Uri.