Posts Tagged ‘Skylab’

NASA’s Manned Missions: Past and Present

May 24, 2011

Since 1959, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has successfully launched over 100 manned flights into space.  The most successful space programs have been the following:

Project Mercury (1959-1963) – The first US-crewed program started in 1959, successfully completing six crewed missions.  Watch the first part of NASA’s documentary on Project Mercury below, as well as part two and part three.

Project Gemini (1963-1966) – NASA used this program to practice space rendezvous and EVAs, completing a run of ten crewed missions.  Part one of NASA’s documentary on Project Gemini (Gemini IV), below, along with part two and part three.

Apollo Program (1961-1975) – Even though there were a total of eleven crewed missions, Apollo 11 featured Man’s very first lunar landing.  Watch part one of NASA’s documentary, Apollo 11: For All Mankind, below, as well as part two, part three, and part four.

Skylab (1973-1974) – The first American space station featured three crewed missions, which took place in 1973 and 1974.  NASA’s documentary is in two parts: part one is below.

Apollo-Soyuz (1975) – A joint program with the Soviet Union, only one crewed mission took place, but it was historic, nonetheless.  Here are parts one (below), two, and three of NASA’s documentary.

Space Shuttle Program | Space Transportation System (STS) (1981-2011) – The longest running program has gone through 133 crewed missions and was the first to make use of reusable spacecrafts.  Watch parts one (below), two, and three of NASA’s documentary covering STS-1, Space Shuttle Columbia’s and, indeed, the entire Space Shuttle program’s, maiden flight.

Shuttle-Mir Program (1994-1998) – The result of a Russian partnership, this program completed eleven crewed missions.

International Space Station (ISS) (1998-present) – This is an ongoing collaboration with Russia, Canada, ESA, and JAXA along with co-operators, ASI and AEB.  27 expeditions have maintained a human presence in outer space since 1998, and 34 Space Shuttle missions played a critical role in the construction and delivery of supplies to the ISS.  The video below highlights STS-88, the first Space Shuttle mission to the ISS.

There have been many successes with NASA’s space programs.  Since 1959, there have only been three failures which resulted in the death of the crew, such as Apollo 1 in 1967, STS-51-L (the Challenger disaster) in 1986, and STS-107 (the Columbia disaster) in 2003.  Nonetheless, the purpose of the “Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans” is to examine ongoing and planned National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) development activities, as well as potential alternatives, and present options for advancing a safe, innovative, affordable, and sustainable human space flight program in the years following Space Shuttle retirement.  I hope that, within the next few years, we continue to make many historic advances in our ongoing mission to uncover the secrets of outer space with today’s budding scientist and engineers in tomorrow’s fleet of spacecrafts.

With the retirement of NASA's Space Shuttle program in 2011, let's look back at NASA's past human spaceflight programs; at first, in a Space Race with the former U.S.S.R. and, later on, in cooperation with them and other space agencies from the international community.

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Joie Montoya

Skylab: The United States’ First Space Station

May 13, 2011

Skylab was the United States’ first space station.  Launched on May 14, 1973, NASA felt it needed to establish a separate space station from the International Space Station (ISS) for crew members to live in outer space.  Skylab orbited Earth 2,476 times during the 171 days and 13 hours of its occupation during the three manned Skylab missions.  Some of the solar experiments conducted on these missions included photographing eight solar flares and determining the existence of the Sun’s coronal holes.

NASA astronauts conducted three manned missions aboard Skylab, the United States' first space station. Before NASA had a chance to refurbish the space station, it came crashing to Earth in 1979.

Courtesy: NASA

Although Skylab was successful, it was abandoned after the end of the SL-4 mission in February 1974.  NASA had planned Space Shuttle missions to reuse Skylab.

  1. An early Shuttle flight would boost Skylab to a higher orbit, adding five years to Skylab’s operational lifespan.  While the shuttle might have pushed or towed the station into orbit, attaching a booster—the Teleoperated Retrieval System (TRS)—to the station was more likely, based on astronauts’ training for the task.  Martin Marietta won the contract for the $26 million TRS, which contained about three tons of propellant, and began work in April 1978.
  2. In two shuttle flights, Skylab would be refurbished.  In January 1982, the first mission would attach a docking adapter and conduct repairs.  In August 1983, a second crew would replace several system components.
  3. In March 1984, shuttle crews would attach a solar-powered Power Expansion Package, refurbish scientific equipment, and conduct 30- to 90-day missions using the Apollo Telescope Mount (ATM) and the earth resources experiments.
  4. Over five years, Skylab would be expanded to accommodate six to eight astronauts, with a new large docking/interface module, additional logistics modules, Spacelab modules and pallets, and an orbital vehicle space dock using the shuttle’s external tank.

The first three phases would have required about $60 million in 1980s dollars, not including launch costs.  However, due to delays in preparing the Space Shuttles by about two years, NASA decided to abandon all plans for boosting the station, and allowed it to reenter Earth’s atmosphere.  As of today, NASA continues to look for alternatives to Skylab.

NASA produced a documentary about Skylab.  Here is the first part:

Here is the second part:

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Joie Montoya