Skylab

Skylab 1
During the launch phase of the Skylab Orbital Workshop (OWS) the meteoroid shield was torn off by aerodynamic loads, culminating in the loss of one of the two main solar arrays, and the jamming of the other. Since the meteroid shield was designed to provide passive thermal control by shading the workshop from direct solar radiation, this resulted in both the overheating of the workshop, and a severe electrical power shortage.

Skylab 2 patch

Skylab Expedition 1
The Skylab Expedition 1 crew rescued the damaged Orbital Workshop by erecting a giant parasol to shade the station from the sun, and by freeing the stuck solar panel. They were then able to complete their 28-day science mission -- doubling the previous US record of 14 days set by the Gemini 7 crew.

Skylab Expedition 2
The Skylab Expedition 2 crew successfully carried out a 59-day mission, which included installing a replacement sun shade during a 6-1/2 hour space walk; test flight of an astronaut maneuvering unit inside the workshop (an AMU was flown during Gemini, but never tested) and numerous scientific studies.

Skylab 3 patch
Skylab 4 patch

Skylab Expedition 3
At 84 days, Skylab Expedition 3 was the longest US crewed space flight until the first expedition to the International Space Station in 2000. Physiological and psychological aspects of long-duration missions were tested, and observations of Comet Kohoutek were made, in addition to an ambitious set of scientific investigations.


A Note on Skylab Mission Numbering

The official numbering of Skylab missions has the launch of the orbital workshop as Skylab 1; and the three subsequent crew launches are designated Skylab 2, 3, and 4. A parallel, "unofficial" numbering scheme denotes the three crew launches as Skylabs 1, 2 and 3, leaving the OWS launch undesignated. The crew patches follow the unofficial numbering scheme. This site uses a compromise scheme: like the International Space Station flights, "Expedition" numbers are used. Thus Skylab 2 is referred to as "Skylab Expedition 1", and so on.

In Homesteading Space, a history of the Skylab Program, the reason for the discrepancy is explained (pp.61-63). The crews initially designed patches around the official 2-3-4 numbering scheme, but when they asked the Skylab Project manager to confirm this numbering, they were told to use 1-2-3. They then re-designed the patches using the 1-2-3 scheme, had the artwork prepared, and sent it all to headquarters for approval. The designs were rejected, on the basis that they should use the official 2-3-4 scheme. The crews had begun the process of having artwork prepared for the 2-3-4 scheme, when they were told "not to bother."

The reason was simply practical: the complete crew provisions of food and clothing for the entire length of the 3 missions were to be stowed aboard the OWS prior to launch. Naturally, this required considerable lead time, and the process had gone ahead without waiting for official approval of the patch designs. So by the time headquarters vetoed the 1-2-3 designs, the clothing (complete with insignia) had already been produced and shipped to the Cape. NASA managers decided that the expense of having it all changed was prohibitive, and so they dropped the matter.

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