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Homesteading Space

The Skylab Story

David Hitt

Publication Year: 2008

As the United States and the Soviet Union went from exploring space to living in it, a space station was conceived as the logical successor to the Apollo moon program. But between conception and execution there was the vastness of space itself, to say nothing of monumental technological challenges. Homesteading Space, by two of Skylab’s own astronauts and a NASA journalist, tells the dramatic story of America’s first space station from beginning to fiery end.
Homesteading Space is much more than a story of technological and scientific success; it is also an absorbing, sometimes humorous, often inspiring account of the determined, hardworking individuals who shepherded the program through a near-disastrous launch, a heroic rescue, and an exhausting study of Comet Kohoutek, as well as the lab's ultimate descent into the Indian Ocean. Featuring the unpublished in-flight diary of astronaut Alan Bean, the book is replete with the personal recollections and experiences of the Skylab crew and those who worked with them in training, during the mission, and in bringing them safely home.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Series: Outward Odyssey: A People's History of Spaceflight Series


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pp. viii-x

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pp. xi-xvi

The book that follows is a riveting, insightful account of the Skylab missions flown by the United States in 1973 and 1974. It is also simply a great yarn. Skylab began as an underdog, was nearly knocked out several times, staggered back to its feet, and fought on against overwhelming odds until it became a champion. In a lot of ways, it was the Rocky of space, and just ...

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pp. xvii-xx

If mankind is to travel from Earth to explore our universe, we will have to learn to live without the familiar experience of weight that is almost always with us on our home planet. In the void between worlds, explorers will experience virtually total weightlessness. It's a strange environment without up or down, new to the body ...

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pp. xxi-xxiv

Just as it took a team of thousands working together to make the Skylab program, telling its tale would not have been possible without the generous contributions of many people. While the three of us struggled over the past several years to put everything in place and to make this story of Skylab both accurate and interesting for all readers, we have found that ...


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pp. xxv-xxvi

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1. From the Ground Up

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pp. 1-36

The task of turning a spent rocket stage into a livable space station was proving more difficult than anticipated. The man in the spacesuit was attempting to carry out the tasks that would convert the used, empty fuel tank into an orbital workshop. It was a daunting challenge. If the series of steps could be carried out, it would provide an expedient path to homesteading space. ...

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2. The Homesteaders

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pp. 37-64

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 had selected. The remaining four, Jerry Carr, Jack Lousma, Bill Pogue, and Paul ...

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3. Getting Ready to Fly

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pp. 65-94

Joe Kerwin recalled: "Here's the story about my first brush with Skylab: One day in January 1966, Al Shepard said, 'Kerwin and Michel, I want you to go out to the Douglas plant in California. Marshall's working on an idea of using the inside of an S-IVB fuel tank as an experimental space station.' So we called out to Ellington for a T-38 jet and flew to Huntington Beach. ...

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4. Fifty-six Days in a Can

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pp. 95-120

SMEAT, the Skylab Medical Experiment Altitude Test, was a full-length simulation of a Skylab mission. The crew selected for the test would spend fifty-six days in a spacecraft mock-up without the benefits of actually being in space. Selection for the mission might seem a dubious honor, but for the commander of the chosen crew, things had been much, much worse. ...

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5. A Tour of Skylab

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pp. 121-134

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 was basically a nondescript...

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6. Ten Days in May

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pp. 135-166

"Eighteen days before launch—let's see, that would be April 26—the Skylab 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 JCS property. Yes, we missed our families, but the arrangement was efficient, and we were ...

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7. "We Fix Anything"

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pp. 167-236

"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 ...

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8. "Marooned"

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pp. 237-261

The launch of the second crew of Skylab was something of a rarity in the history of human spaceflight. While it's not uncommon for space launches to be delayed, scrubbed, and otherwise pushed back, the launch of the SL-3 Saturn 1B was actually pushed forward. Though it had originally been scheduled for 17 August 1973, concerns over the condition of the parasol installed ...

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9. High Performance

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pp. 261-332

What is it like living in space, not just visiting for a little while but actually setting up a home and living and working there for two months? Beyond the novel and unique circumstances encountered immediately, what is day-to-day life like as a "resident in orbit"? In other words what is it like to "home-stead space"? And, when you return to Earth, how do you hang on to an ...

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10. Sprinting a Marathon

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pp. 333-398

Skylab III was to break new ground in mission duration and accomplishments. And it would do it with an all-rookie crew. When they launched, the three crewmembers did not have a single day of spaceflight experience amongst them. But when they returned, each would have spent more continuous time in space than any other human being. ...

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11. Science on Skylab

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pp. 399-444

Several books could be—and have been—written to summarize all of the scientific experiments performed on Skylab. Almost one hundred different pieces of experiment equipment were manifested for the original launch. Thousands of hours were spent on science. Tens of thousands of Earth observation images were taken as well as over a hundred thousand solar ...

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12. What Goes Up . . .

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pp. 445-460

"In April of 1982 I was lucky enough to be assigned the job of senior science representative to Australia—'NASA Rep,' the Aussies called it," Joe Kerwin said. "So I got on the plane in Houston, and some twenty-two hours and three stops later dragged my weary body into the Canberra airport terminal. ...

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13. The Legacy of Skylab

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pp. 461-470

Perhaps part of Skylab's greatest legacy is the extent to which its legacy is often overlooked. Tucked between the glory of Apollo and the much longer Space Shuttle program, Skylab's importance to human space exploration can be lost in the shadows of its older and younger siblings. However, it is a testament to how effective Skylab was in breaking new ground in human ...

Appendix: Alan Bean's In-Flight Diary

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pp. 471-518


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pp. 519-520

E-ISBN-13: 9780803219014
E-ISBN-10: 0803219016

Page Count: 1032
Illustrations: 50 photos, 1 table
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: Outward Odyssey: A People's History of Spaceflight Series