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A Permanent Presence in Space

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Skylab was a manned space station launched into Earth orbit by the United States in May 1973. It was made from the third stage of a Saturn V launch vehicle. A crew of three astronauts occupied Skylab during each of three missions. The longest mission, which ended in February 1974, lasted almost three months.

The Skylab missions obtained vast amounts of scientific data, and they demonstrated to the American public that people could live and work productively in space for months at a time.

Skylab was intended to be a temporary--not a permanent--presence in space. Abandoned in 1974, it reentered Earth's atmosphere in July 1979. Although most of the spacecraft burned up during reentry, scattered pieces landed in Australia and the southern Indian Ocean.

Skylab logo
227 k jpeg
NASA#: 73-HC-228

Lift-off of the Saturn V carrying Skylab on May 14, 1973.
Skylab launch
113 k jpeg
NASA#: 73-HC-440


In 1969 a Space Task Group recommended to President Richard Nixon a space program to follow the missions to the Moon. The plan included a permanently occupied space station, a reusable shuttle spacecraft, and eventual missions to Mars. But because of increasing budget pressures these ideas received little political or public support. Only the Space Shuttle won favor and funding, and even that decision was controversial.

When the last two Apollo missions were canceled, NASA used some of the remaining Apollo hardware for an experimental space station, Skylab, as an interim program before the Shuttle was ready to fly.

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