HomeSpace NewsThe scariest spaceflight moments show dangers in orbit and beyond

The scariest spaceflight moments show dangers in orbit and beyond

Skylab’s damage after launch is apparent in this picture, especially with the solar array that had not deployed (right).

(Image credit: NASA)

1973: Astronauts take tricky spacewalks to repair damaged NASA Skylab space station

NASA’s first space station, called Skylab, launched into orbit on May 14, 1973. During launch, a micrometeoroid shield accidentally ripped open and in the process, tore off one solar array and damaged another. Now NASA had an underpowered and rapidly overheating space station in orbit, which would require an ace crew to fix.

Apollo 12 veteran Pete Conrad, along with rookies Paul J. Weitz and Joseph P. Kerwin, launched 10 days after Skylab on a basic mission to bring the station back to habitability. It took a series of tricky spacewalks to fix the matter, but eventually the crew erected a sun shade, deployed the stuck array, and then started their science mission for real. Skylab went on to host three crews.

Skylab’s end of mission did not go to plan, either, as after a series of delays to raise its orbit, the station began re-entering faster than expected as the sun’s activity ballooned Earth’s atmosphere. Pieces of Skylab accidentally rained into Australia and nearby regions on July 11, 1979, but nobody was hurt.

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