NASA’s Skylab marks 42nd anniversary of last space mission

Precursor to International Space Station garnered tons of space data

Credit: NASA

The month marks the 42 anniversary of the last manned occupation of the US’ first big attempt to live in outer space – Skylab.

+History in pictures: Skylab: NASA's first space station marks 40 years+

Launched on May 14, 1973, the Skylab saw three crewed manned missions—the last being concluded in February 1974.

In terms of technology the lab was pretty advanced for the time. According to IBM, two Big Blue computers controlled the orientation of the laboratory throughout the mission. The onboard computers, which were arranged redundantly, were models of IBM's System/4Pi, a computer designed for the special weight and environmental requirements of aerospace applications. Each of the IBM computers aboard Skylab weighed 100 pounds and measured 19 by 7.3 by 31.8 inches. They were capable of handling more than 100 signals to Skylab attitude control equipment, IBM says.

There was talk of re-using Skylab after it was abandoned – the Space Shuttle would have been used to bring refurbishings to the craft -- but nothing ever came from those discussions.

+More on Network World: 8 surprising hunks of space gear that returned to Earth+

On July 11, 1979, Skylab made a partially controlled re-entry intended to scatter the debris across the Indian Ocean. Much of the station burned up during re-entry, but not as quickly as expected. The debris dispersion area stretched from the southeastern Indian Ocean across a sparsely populated section of Western Australia, NASA said.

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