Skylab 4

Skylab 4
Skylab and Earth Limb - GPN-2000-001055.jpg
The final view of Skylab, from the departing mission 4 crew, with Earth in the background
OperatorNASA
COSPAR ID1973-090A
SATCAT no.6936
Mission duration84 days, 1 hour, 15 minutes, 30 seconds
Distance travelled55,500,000 kilometers (34,500,000 mi)
Orbits completed1214
Spacecraft properties
SpacecraftApollo CSM-118
ManufacturerNorth American Rockwell
Launch mass20,847 kilograms (45,960 lb)
Crew
Crew size3
Members
EVAs4
Start of mission
Launch dateNovember 16, 1973, 14:01:23 (1973-11-16UTC14:01:23Z) UTC
RocketSaturn IB SA-208
Launch siteKennedy LC-39B
End of mission
Recovered byUSS New Orleans
Landing dateFebruary 8, 1974, 15:16:53 (1974-02-08UTC15:16:54Z) UTC
Landing site31°18′N 119°48′W / 31.300°N 119.800°W / 31.300; -119.800
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric
RegimeLow Earth
Perigee altitude422 kilometers (262 mi)
Apogee altitude437 kilometers (272 mi)
Inclination50.04 degrees
Period93.11 minutes
EpochJanuary 21, 1974[1]
Docking with Skylab
Docking portForward
Docking dateNovember 16, 1973, 21:55:00 UTC
Undocking dateFebruary 8, 1974, 02:33:12 UTC
Time docked83 days, 4 hours, 38 minutes, 12 seconds
Skylab3-Patch.png
Due to a NASA management error, crewed Skylab mission patches were designed in conflict with the official mission numbering scheme.
Skylab4 crew.jpg
Left to right: Carr, Gibson and Pogue
Skylab program
 

Skylab 4 (also SL-4 and SLM-3[2]) was the third crewed Skylab mission and placed the third and final crew aboard the first American space station.

The mission started on November 16, 1973 with the launch of three astronauts on an Apollo command and service module on a Saturn IB rocket from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida and lasted 84 days, one hour and 16 minutes. A total of 6,051 astronaut-utilization hours were tallied by Skylab 4 astronauts performing scientific experiments in the areas of medical activities, solar observations, Earth resources, observation of the Comet Kohoutek and other experiments.

The crewed Skylab missions were officially designated Skylab 2, 3, and 4. Mis-communication about the numbering resulted in the mission emblems reading "Skylab I", "Skylab II", and "Skylab 3" respectively.[2][3]

Launch

The Skylab 4 Saturn 1B space vehicle is launched from Pad B, Launch Complex 39

Cape Kennedy was renamed Cape Canaveral officially on October 9, 1973.[4] The first crewed launch under the name of "Cape Canaveral" was the Skylab 4 mission, on November 16, 1973.[5][6]

Crew

Position Astronaut
Commander Gerald P. Carr
Only spaceflight
Science Pilot Edward G. Gibson
Only spaceflight
Pilot William R. Pogue
Only spaceflight

With three rookies, Skylab 4 was the largest all-rookie crew launched by NASA. Following the all rookie Mercury program, there were only five more all-rookie NASA flights – Gemini 4, Gemini 7, Gemini 8, Skylab 4 and, in 1981, STS-2.

Backup crew

Position Astronaut
Commander Vance D. Brand
Science Pilot William Lenoir
Pilot Don L. Lind

Support crew

Mission parameters

Days in Space
Mission
Skylab 2
28
Skylab 3
60
Skylab 4
84
  • Mass: 20,847 kg (45,960 lb)
  • Maximum altitude: 440 km (273 mi) (November 16, 1973)
  • Total distance traveled: 34.5 million miles (55,500,000 km)
  • Launch Vehicle: Saturn IB
  • Epoch: January 21, 1974
  • Perigee: 422 km (262 mi)
  • Apogee: 437 km (272 mi)
  • Inclination: 50.04°
  • Period: 93.11 min

Docking

  • Docked: November 16, 1973 – 21:55:00 UTC
  • Undocked: February 8, 1974 – 02:33:12 UTC
  • Time Docked: 83 days, 4 hours, 38 minutes, 12 seconds

Space walks

Gibson and Pogue — EVA 1

Start: November 22, 1973, 17:42 UTC
End: November 23, 00:15 UTC
Duration: 6 hours, 33 minutes

Carr and Pogue — EVA 2

Start: December 25, 1973, 16:00 UTC
End: December 25, 23:01 UTC
Duration: 7 hours, 01 minute

Carr and Gibson — EVA 3

Start: December 29, 1973, 17:00 UTC
End: December 29, 20:29 UTC
Duration: 3 hours, 29 minutes

Carr and Gibson — EVA 4

Start: February 3, 1974, 15:19 UTC
End: February 3, 20:38 UTC
Duration: 5 hours, 19 minutes

Mission highlights

One of the dummies left behind by the Skylab 3 crew to be found by the Skylab 4 crew.
Bill Pogue (left) and Gerald Carr pass trash through an airlock to Skylab's waste disposal tank
Kohoutek-uv
False color image of Comet Kohoutek photographed with the far-ultraviolet electrographic camera during a Skylab spacewalk on December 25, 1973.
Solar prominence photographed December 19, 1973 by the Apollo Telescope Mount

The all-rookie astronaut crew arrived aboard Skylab to find that they had company – three figures dressed in flight suits. Upon closer inspection, they found their companions were three dummies, complete with Skylab 4 mission emblems and name tags which had been left there by Al Bean, Jack Lousma, and Owen Garriott at the end of Skylab 3.[7]

Things got off to a bad start after the crew attempted to hide Pogue's early space sickness from flight surgeons, a fact discovered by mission controllers after downloading onboard voice recordings. Astronaut office chief Alan B. Shepard reprimanded them for this omission, saying they "had made a fairly serious error in judgement."[8]

The crew had problems adjusting to the same workload level as their predecessors when activating the workshop. The crew's initial task of unloading and stowing the thousands of items needed for their lengthy mission also proved to be overwhelming.[9] The schedule for the activation sequence dictated lengthy work periods with a large variety of tasks to be performed, and the crew soon found themselves tired and behind schedule.

Seven days into their mission, a problem developed in the Skylab gyroscopic attitude control system, which threatened to bring an early end to the mission. Skylab depended upon three large gyroscopes, sized so that any two of them could provide sufficient control and maneuver Skylab as desired. The third acted as a backup in the event of failure of one of the others.[10] The gyroscope failure was attributed to insufficient lubrication. Later in the mission, a second gyroscope showed similar problems,[11][12] but special temperature control and load reduction procedures kept the second one operating, and no further problems occurred.

On Thanksgiving Day, Gibson and Pogue accomplished a 6​12 hour spacewalk. The first part of their spacewalk was spent deploying experiments and replacing film in the solar observatory. The remainder of the time was used to repair a malfunctioning antenna. During the experience, Gibson remarked, "Boy if this isn't the great outdoors! Inside, you're just looking out through a window. Here, you're right in it."[13] The crew reported that the food was good, but slightly bland. The quantity and type of food consumed was rigidly controlled because of their strict diet. Although the crew would have preferred to use more condiments to enhance the taste of the food, and the amount of salt they could use was restricted for medical purposes, by the third mission the NASA kitchen had increased the availability of condiments, and salt and pepper was in liquid solutions (granular salt and pepper brought aboard by the second crew was little more than "air pollution").[14]

On December 13, the crew sighted Comet Kohoutek and trained the solar observatory and hand-held cameras on it. They gathered spectra on it using the Far Ultraviolet Camera/Spectrograph.[15] They continued to photograph it as it approached the Sun. On December 30, as it swept out from behind the Sun, Carr and Gibson spotted it as they were performing a spacewalk.

As Skylab work progressed, the astronauts complained of being pushed too hard, and ground controllers complained they were not getting enough work done. NASA determined major contributing factors were a large number of new tasks added shortly before launch with little or no training, and searches for equipment out of place on the station.[16][17][18] There was a radio conference to air frustrations[19] which led to the workload schedule being modified, and by the end of their mission the crew had completed even more work than originally planned.

Skylab 4 was noted for several important scientific contributions. The crew spent many hours studying the Earth. Carr and Pogue alternately crewed controls, operating the sensing devices which measured and photographed selected features on the Earth's surface. Gibson and the other crew made solar observations, recording about 75,000 new telescopic images of the Sun. Images were taken in the X-ray, ultraviolet, and visible portions of the spectrum.[16][20]

As the end of their mission drew closer, Gibson continued his watch of the solar surface. On January 21, 1974, an active region on the Sun's surface formed a bright spot which intensified and grew.[16] Gibson quickly began filming the sequence as the bright spot erupted. This film was the first recording from space of the birth of a solar flare.

The crew also photographed the Earth from orbit. Despite instructions not to do so, the crew (perhaps inadvertently) photographed Area 51, causing a minor dispute between various government agencies as to whether the photographs showing this secret facility should be released. In the end, the picture was published along with all others in NASA's Skylab image archive, but remained unnoticed for years.[21]

The Skylab 4 astronauts completed 1,214 Earth orbits and four EVAs totaling 22 hours, 13 minutes. They traveled 34.5 million miles (55,500,000 km) in 84 days, 1 hour and 16 minutes in space. Skylab 4 was the last Skylab mission, the station fell from orbit in 1979.

The three astronauts had joined NASA in the mid-1960s, during the Apollo program, with Pogue and Carr becoming part of the likely crew for the cancelled Apollo 19. Ultimately none of the crew of Skylab 4 flew in space again, as none of the three had been selected for Apollo-Soyuz and all of them retired from NASA before the first Space Shuttle launch. Gibson, who had trained as a scientist-astronaut, resigned from NASA in December 1974 to do research on Skylab solar physics data, as a senior staff scientist with The Aerospace Corporation of Los Angeles, California.

Communications break

An unplanned communications break occurred during the Skylab 4 mission when its crew were not in communications with mission control during a portion of one orbit.[22][dubious ] Ahead of the midpoint of the mission, the Skylab-4 crew started to become fatigued and behind on the work, so as to catch up, they decided that only one crew member needed to be present for the daily briefing instead of all three, allowing the other two to complete existing tasks.[23] At one point, according to both Carr and Gibson, the crew had forgotten to have their radios on for the daily briefing, leading to a lack of communications between the crew and ground control during one period of communications while in line of sight with a tracking station. By the next planned period, the crew had reaffirmed radio contact with ground control.[23][24] Both Carr and Gibson stated that this event partially contributed to discussion on December 30, 1973 between the crew and ground control capsule communicator Richard H. Truly related to their schedule. Carr called this meeting "the first sensitivity session in space".[23][24] NASA agreed to assign the crew a more relaxed schedule, and productivity for the remaining mission significantly increased, surpassing that of the prior Skylab 3 mission.[25]

Consequences

Figure 3-2. Performance lapses for time in bed (TIB) over 14 days of sleep restriction.[26]

While the lack of communications was unintentional, NASA still spent time to study its causes and effects as to avoid its replication in future missions.[27]

At the time, only the crew of Skylab 3 had spent six weeks in space. It was unknown what had happened psychologically. NASA carefully worked with crew's requests, reducing their workload for the next six weeks. The incident took NASA into an unknown realm of concern in the selection of astronauts, still a question as humanity considers human missions to Mars or returning to the Moon.[28] Among the complicating factors was the interplay between management and subordinates (see also Apollo 1 fire and Challenger disaster). On Skylab 4, one problem was that the crew was pushed even harder as they fell behind on their workload, creating an increasing level of stress.[29] Even though none of the astronauts returned to space, there was only one more NASA spaceflight in the decade and Skylab was the first and last American space station.[30] NASA was planning larger space stations but its budget shrank considerably after the Moon landings, and the Skylab orbital workshop was the only major execution of Apollo Applications projects.[30]

Though the final Skylab mission became known for the incident, it was also known for the large amount of work that was accomplished in the long mission.[31] Skylab orbited for six more years before its orbit decayed in 1979 due to higher-than-anticipated solar activity.[27] The next U.S. spaceflight was the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project conducted in July 1975, and after a human spaceflight gap, the first Space Shuttle orbital flight STS-1 in April 1981.

The event, which the involved astronauts have joked about,[32] has been extensively studied as a case study in various fields of endeavor including space medicine, team management, and psychology. Man-hours in space were, and continued to be into the 21st century, a profoundly expensive undertaking; a single day on Skylab was worth about $22.4 million in 2017 dollars, and thus any work stoppage was considered inappropriate due to the expense.[33] According to Space Safety Magazine, the incident affected the planning of future space missions, especially long-term missions.[31]

The described events were considered a significant example of "us versus them" syndrome in space medicine.[34] Crew psychology has been a point of study for Mars analog missions such as Mars-500, with a particular focus on crew behavior triggering a mission failure or other issues.[34] One of the impacts of the incident is the requirement that at least one member of the International Space Station crew be a space veteran (not be on a first flight).[35]

The 84-day stay of the Skylab 4 mission was a human spaceflight record that was not exceeded for over two decades by a NASA astronaut.[36] The 96-day Soviet Salyut 6 EO-1 mission broke Skylab 4's record in 1978.[37][38]

The strike or mutiny myth

The communications failure was treated by the media as a deliberate act and became known as the Skylab strike or Skylab mutiny. One of the first accounts reporting that a strike aboard Skylab had occurred was published in The New Yorker on August 22, 1976, nearly two years after the mission, by Henry S. F. Cooper, who claimed that the crew were alleged to have stopped working on December 28, 1973.[39][25] Cooper also published similar claims in his book A House in Space that same year.[25] The Harvard Business School published a 1980 report, "Strike in Space", also claiming that the astronauts had gone on strike, but without any cited claims.[25] Subsequently, enough media gave weight to support the urban legend that there was a Skylab strike on December 28, 1973.[25]

NASA, the astronauts involved, and spaceflight historians have confirmed that no strike occurred. NASA believes that the events on December 28 may have been confused with a day off that was given to the crew on December 26 after a long spacewalk by Carr and Pogue the day before.[23][25] NASA also stated that there may have been confusion with a known ground equipment failure on December 25 that left them unable to track Skylab for one orbit, but the crew had been notified of this issue ahead of time.[25] Both Carr and Gibson have affirmed it was a series of misjudgments and nothing intentional on the crew's end that caused them to miss the briefing.[23][24] [40] Spaceflight history author David Hitt disputed that the crew deliberately ended contact with mission control in a book written with former astronauts Owen K. Garriott and Joseph P. Kerwin.[41]

Despite these reports, the urban legend persists in the media.[25][32][42]

Gallery

Command Module legacy

The Skylab 4 command module on display at the National Air and Space Museum.

The Skylab 4 command module was transferred to the National Air and Space Museum in 1975.[45] This module is the Command and Service Modules CSM-118 and it spent 84 days in Earth orbit as part of the Skylab mission.[46] As of September 2020 it is on display at the Oklahoma History Center.[46]

The module rolled upside down after splashdown, which happened in about half the Apollo CSM splashdowns; in this situation spheres were inflated on top of the CSM to right the module.[47]

The windows of the Skylab 3 and 4 spacecraft modules were studied for micrometeroid impacts.[48]

The module was painted white on half its side to help with spacecraft thermal management.[49] Whereas Block II Apollo CSM had Kapton coated with aluminium and silicon monoxide, later Skylab modules had white paint for the sunward side.[49]

The Skylab 4 Command Module held the record for the longest single spaceflight for an American spacecraft for nearly 50 years until it was broken by Crew Dragon Resilience flying the SpaceX Crew-1 mission on February 7 2021. To commemorate the event, the four person crew of Crew-1 spoke live with Edward Gibson from the International Space Station.[50]

Mission insignia

The triangular emblem features a large number 3 and a rainbow circling three areas of study the astronauts pursued. At the time of the flight, the astronauts issued the following description:

"The symbols in the patch refer to the three major areas of investigation in the mission. The tree represents man's natural environment and refers to the objective of advancing the study of earth resources. The hydrogen atom, as the basic building block of the universe, represents man's exploration of the physical world, his application of knowledge, and his development of technology. Since the sun is composed primarily of hydrogen, the hydrogen symbol also refers to the Solar Physics mission objectives. The human silhouette represents mankind and the human capacity to direct technology with a wisdom tempered by his regard for his natural environment. It also relates to the Skylab medical studies of man himself. The rainbow, adopted from the Biblical story of the Flood, symbolizes the promise that is offered to man. It embraces man and extends to the tree and hydrogen atom, emphasizing man's pivotal role in the conciliation of technology with nature by a humanistic application of our scientific knowledge."

Some versions of the patch included a comet in the top curve because of studies made of the comet Kohoutek.

See also

References

  1. ^ McDowell, Jonathan. "SATCAT". Jonathan's Space Pages. Retrieved March 23, 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Skylab Numbering Fiasco". Living in Space. William Pogue Official WebSite. 2007. Archived from the original on February 2, 2009. Retrieved February 7, 2009.
  3. ^ Pogue, William. "Naming Spacecraft: Confusion Reigns". collectSPACE. Retrieved April 24, 2011.
  4. ^ Lethbridge, Clifford J. Spaceline.org "Cape History". Spaceline.org. Retrieved on March 23, 2011.
  5. ^ "Skylab astronauts set for 9:01 launch today". Daytona Beach Morning Journal. (Florida). November 16, 1973. p. 1A.
  6. ^ "Third Skylab crew fired aloft". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. Associated Press. November 16, 1973. p. 1.
  7. ^ "Photo-sl3-113-1587". spaceflight.nasa.gov. Retrieved May 21, 2015.
  8. ^ Wilford, John Noble (November 18, 1973). "Skylab Astronauts Are Reprimanded In 1st Day Aboard". New York Times. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  9. ^ "Astronauts Try to Make Up Time". New York Times. Associated Press. November 19, 1973. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  10. ^ "A Skylab Gyroscope Fails, Leaving Only 2 for Control". New York Times. Associated Press. November 24, 1973. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  11. ^ "Gyro on Skylab Is Erratic; Officials Are Not Alarmed". New York Times. Associated Press. December 8, 1973. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  12. ^ "Skylab Gyroscope Falters, Puzzling Ground Engineers". New York Times. United Press International. January 4, 1974. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  13. ^ "Two Astronauts fix Skylab Antenna". New York Times. Associated Press. November 23, 1973. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  14. ^ Erling, John (2013) Interview with William Pogue. Voices of Oklahoma. p. 33.
  15. ^ "SP-404 Skylab's Astronomy and Space Sciences". Archived from the original on November 13, 2004. Retrieved May 14, 2013.
  16. ^ a b c Canby, Thomas (October 1974). "Skylab, Outpost on the Frontier of Space". National Geographic Magazine. 146: 441–493.:468
  17. ^ "Lethargy of Skylab 3 Crew Is Studied". Reuters. December 12, 1973. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  18. ^ "Skylab Crew Takes Day Off for Rest". New York Times. Associated Press. November 25, 1973. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  19. ^ "Astronauts Debate Work Schedules With Controllers". New York Times. Associated Press. December 31, 1973. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  20. ^ Edward G. Gibson Biographical Data. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center
  21. ^ Secret Apollo. The Space Review. November 26, 2007
  22. ^ Broad, William J. (July 16, 1997). "On Edge in Outer Space? It Has Happened Before". The New York Times. Retrieved January 29, 2017.
  23. ^ a b c d e Brewer, Kirstie (March 20, 2021). "Skylab: The myth of the mutiny in space". BBC. Retrieved March 22, 2021.
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  25. ^ a b c d e f g h Uri, John (November 16, 2020). "The Real Story of the Skylab 4 "Strike" in Space". NASA. Retrieved March 22, 2021.
  26. ^ Van Dongen, HP; Maislin, G; Mullington, JM; Dinges, DF (2003). "The cumulative cost of additional wakefulness: Dose-response effects on neurobehavioral functions and sleep physiology from chronic sleep restriction and total sleep deprivation". Sleep. 26 (2): 117–26. doi:10.1093/sleep/26.2.117. PMID 12683469.
  27. ^ a b "Skylab: First U.S. Space Station". Space.com. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
  28. ^ DNews (April 16, 2012). "Why 'Space Madness' Fears Haunted NASA's Past". Seeker – Science. World. Exploration. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
  29. ^ Staff, Wired Science. "Skylab: America's First Home in Space Launched 40 Years Ago Today". WIRED. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
  30. ^ a b "Skylab: Everything You Need to Know". www.armaghplanet.com. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
  31. ^ a b "All the King's Horses: The Final Mission to Skylab (Part 3)". Space Safety Magazine. December 5, 2013. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
  32. ^ a b Vitello, Paul (March 10, 2014). "William Pogue, Astronaut Who Staged a Strike in Space, Dies at 84". The New York Times. Retrieved January 30, 2017.
  33. ^ Lafleur, Claude (March 8, 2010). "Costs of US Piloted Programs". The Space Review. Retrieved February 18, 2012. See author's correction in comments section.
  34. ^ a b Clément, Gilles (July 15, 2011). Fundamentals of Space Medicine. Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 978-1-4419-9905-4.
  35. ^ Gilles Clément (2011). Fundamentals of Space Medicine. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 255. ISBN 978-1-4419-9905-4.
  36. ^ Elert, Glenn. "Duration of the Longest Space Flight". hypertextbook.com. Retrieved January 5, 2017.
  37. ^ Pike, John. "Soyuz 26 and Soyuz 27". www.globalsecurity.org. Retrieved January 5, 2017.
  38. ^ Hollingham, Richard (December 21, 2015). "How the most expensive structure in the world was built". BBC.
  39. ^ Cooper, Henry S. F. (August 30, 1976). "Life in a Space Station". The New Yorker. Retrieved January 30, 2017.
  40. ^ Butler, Carol (December 1, 2000). "Oral History Transcript - Edward G. Gibson". NASA Johnson Space Center. Retrieved March 26, 2021.
  41. ^ Hitt, David (2008). Homesteading Space: The Skylab Story. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 978-0803219014. Retrieved January 29, 2017.
  42. ^ Hiltzik, Michael. "The day when three NASA astronauts staged a strike in space". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 29, 2017.
  43. ^ William Pogue's Seiko 6139 Watch Flown on Board the Skylab 4 Mission, from his Personal Collection... The First Automatic Chronograph to be Worn in Space. Heritage Auctions
  44. ^ The "Colonel Pogue" Seiko 6139. dreamchrono.com.
  45. ^ Skylab 4 Command Module. U.S. National Air and Space Museum. Retrieved on August 5, 2020.
  46. ^ a b "Command Module, Skylab 4". collectSPACE. Retrieved August 28, 2020.
  47. ^ "Upside-Down Astronauts". NASA. Retrieved December 23, 2018.
  48. ^ "1979LPSC...10.1665C Page 1665". Bibcode:1979LPSC...10.1665C. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  49. ^ a b "Making The Command Module's Heat Shield". Spaceflight Blunders & Greatness. March 4, 2017. Retrieved December 23, 2018.
  50. ^ http://www.collectspace.com/ubb/Forum30/HTML/001501.html

Further reading

  • Gilles Clement, Fundamentals of Space Medicine, Microcosm Press, 2003. pp. 212.
  • Lattimer, Dick (1985). All We Did was Fly to the Moon. Whispering Eagle Press. ISBN 0-9611228-0-3.

External links

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