Skylab 2

Skylab 2 ( SL-2 ) was the first crew of the U.S. space station Skylab. The space laboratory had been damaged at the start, so that the mission consisted mainly of repair work. With a residence time of four weeks in space, a new long-term record was set.

The team

Towards the end of the Apollo lunar landing program on January 19, 1972, NASA announced the three crews for the planned space station Skylab. As commander of the first crew of the Space Veteran Charles Conrad was nominated, who already was with Gemini 5, Gemini 11 and Apollo 12 three times in space. With this fourth space flight, he would catch up with John Young and James Lovell, both of which were also able to show four space flights.

As a pilot Paul Weitz was used. He had no experience in space, just as Joseph Kerwin, who completed a science astronaut team.

Commander of the backup crew was Russell Schweickart, the Apollo 9 was already in space. The pilot Bruce McCandless and the scientists Story Musgrave were Space newbies. Musgrave was the first astronaut of the sixth NASA - choice group, which was nominated for a flight.

As support ( support crew ) nor Robert Crippen, Richard Truly, Henry Hartsfield and William Thornton belonged firmly to the team.

The mission was officially taking the name Skylab 2, but was often referred to as Skylab 1, because it was the first crew of the space station.

The preparation

Since the flight of Apollo 7 in October 1968 no rocket launches of the Saturn 1B were more made. The former launch pad was no longer to be used, so that for the manned Skylab launches a ramp at the Kennedy Space Center had to be rebuilt. The shorter Saturn 1B was placed on a pedestal where the place designated for the Saturn V launch tower could be used.

To test the welfare institutions of the ramp LC - 39B, was the mounted rocket AS -206, but transported to a spaceship - dummy, in January 1973 to the launch pad. After verifying that all bridges were properly positioned and a sample refueling successful, the missile was returned to the assembly hall where the Apollo spacecraft was mounted on 21 February.

The spacecraft CSM -116 was originally intended for the moon flight of Apollo 20. When this mission in January 1970 canceled, the spacecraft could be converted for the Skylab mission. Since the Apollo spacecraft was shut down at the space station for several weeks, the power supply could not be done on fuel cells, so that again the batteries were used. In addition, various facilities for scientific experiments in orbit around the Moon were no longer necessary.

Damage at the start of the space station

Originally the launch of Skylab 2 was scheduled for May 15, a day after the space laboratory was put in orbit with Skylab 1. Since the laboratory but was damaged during launch, Skylab 2 was postponed until they had a clear picture of the damage and the repair options.

It turned out that apparently a heat shield and a solar module had been torn away. Also, could not be extended another solar panel. Studies have shown that possibly remains of demolished heat shield prevented the development. In no time repair plans have been designed and developed tools, including a cutting device on the basis of commercial tree and shears, which was provided with extensions, as well as rods and cables. To simulate the weightlessness, the team practiced in a water tank the necessary steps. At the same time, the control center, temperature and energy supply in the space station trying to keep under control.

History of the flight

With ten days late Skylab 2 launched on 25 May 1973. The new launch pad, in which the relatively small rocket stood on a platform, proved to be excellent.

After ten minutes the Apollo spacecraft, which incidentally had no own call, in orbit and five orbits later, the Rendezvous was carried out with the space station. The astronauts flew slowly around Skylab, to see the damage accurately and to transmit television pictures of it to the ground. As expected, missing large parts of the heat shield and a solar module. The opposite solar module was jammed and not deployed.

Weitz tried standing in the open hatch of Apollo, to solve the blocked solar module with a long pole with a hook- shaped end. Kerwin held him there on the legs firmly while Conrad carefully maneuvered the Apollo spacecraft. This attempt failed, however, and spent a significant part of the attitude control propellant of the station.

It was not until the next day went to the astronauts in the space station, which was strongly heated by the absence of the heat shield. The team succeeded, so that the temperature dropped by one of the two small locks which had been actually intended for experiments to develop an umbrella-like heat protection foil outside the station and aufzuspannen to tolerable values ​​. The development and production of this film was carried out within seven days.

On June 7, Conrad and Kerwin took a spacewalk to free the jammed solar panel, which also succeeded after much trouble. The space station had in this Part to no handholds. The astronauts tried with a rope, under which she straightened up, freeing the module, but this did not lead to success. Conrad was forced to separate some bent aluminum plates, then moved manually to the module, and was pushed away by itself unfolding boom. From this day on Skylab was fully functional.

In the remaining two weeks, the crew conducted by various scientific experiments. Another spacewalk was performed by Conrad and Weitz on June 19 to change the film on solar observatory.

On June 22, the team rose to the Apollo landing capsule and returned to Earth. Skylab was about a month without a crew.

After splashdown off the Pacific Coast of the United States, the Skylab crew were hoisted together with the landing capsule aboard the recovery ship USS Ticonderoga. After the moon flights, the astronauts were first switched in a dinghy and were then lifted into a helicopter. But since you did not know how the astronauts would respond to gravity after a long stay in space, you could see from this method in the Skylab flights.

Whereabouts of the flight hardware

The CM of Skylab 2 is located in the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Florida.

Importance for the Skylab project

This space flight was an important step for human spaceflight. Once again it had been shown that humans can get unforeseen events in the handle. Without human intervention, the space station would have been lost after a few days.

But as the astronauts had four weeks of the first American space station lived and worked. The equipment and the equipment had it mostly proved to be practical and useful.

Another, but no less important consideration was that the astronauts had suffered no harm from their four-week stay in weightlessness. There was no indication that even longer missions could cause problems.

Even from a scientific perspective, the mission was a success. Although could not be carried out as desired all experiments, but if you took into account that had been lost by the repairs valuable time you could be fully satisfied with the amount of data obtained. The medical experiments were almost completed, the solar observations to about 80% and the Earth observations to about 60%.

The Apollo spacecraft had proved also for this type of mission. The break of almost four weeks between round-trip flight had caused no problems.

For the Americans, the 28 days of Skylab 2 also meant that the long-term record of Soyuz 11, which was set up in June 1971 with 23 days, was brought back to the United States. In addition, Charles Conrad held with 49 days now the record for the longest total stay of a spaceman in space.

All these records should be broken by the second team with Skylab 3.