In 1973 Skylab became the United States’ first space station. It continued in operation until 1979.
I was born in early 1978, so I don’t have too many “non-fuzzy” memories of Skylab while it was still orbiting the Earth. I vaguely remember (very vaguely) when there was some media hoopla that it would come down over populated areas in mid-1979. A certain contingent of people really believed it would impact land, even though most of the Earth consists of water. Some enterprising entrepreneurs were actually selling “Skylab reentry hats” as a novelty item. At the time, there was also a very funny Saturday Night Live sketch starring the late actor/comedian John Belushi, where he supposes the space station will land on his apartment. But Skylab landed mostly over the Indian Ocean, with some pieces coming down over Western Australia – the space station was too “strong” to come down completely over the water.
My next Skylab-related recollection came around 1983, when I was a space-obsessed Kindergartner. I remember reading a kids’ space book, and seeing a picture of Skylab – even though it had launched 10 years previously, it still had a retro-futuristic appeal with its windmill-like solar panels. I remember having a picture of it on my wall as a kid, and many copies of the October 1974 National Geographic magazine, which had a great Skylab retrospective, including a panoramic photo of all three crews. I just thought this was the coolest thing!
So from then on, I was a bit of a Skylab obsessive, and I loved reading about America’s first space station. While I didn’t experience much of it while it was still “flying,” I do have warm memories of reading about it and gazing at pictures of it as a young child. I still have a copy of the National Geographic, and it is now autographed by two Skylab astronauts: Dr. Joseph Kerwin, and the late Capt. Paul Weitz, USN (both Skylab 2).
What memories do you have of Skylab? How did you and the people in your life react to it?