50 Years Ago: The Launch of Skylab

Yesterday, May 14, marked the 50th anniversary of the launch of America’s first space station, Skylab, which took off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on May 14, 1973. The components of Skylab were put into orbit over two missions, lifted into space by Saturn V launch vehicles. Three crewed missions spent a total of 171 days aboard Skylab, running hundreds of experiments. The final crew departed in 1974, and Skylab was left in a parking orbit that decayed faster than originally anticipated—leading to global news stories in 1979, when NASA announced the station’s imminent reentry but could not say for certain where it might land. On July 11, 1979, NASA engineers fired Skylab’s booster rockets, aiming for the Indian Ocean with partial success, but a number of large chunks did make landfall in Western Australia.

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