40 years has gone quick!
good article. I remember it was in the Oz news for ages with speculation rife on where it would crash.
40 years ago today, nearly 10 years after Neil Armstrong plonked a boot on the Moon, another bit of Apollo leftovers came screaming back to Earth: the Skylab space station. Launched in May 1973 aboard the last Saturn V to fly, Skylab consisted of the Saturn S-IVB 212 stage outfitted to be home to visiting crews. Three crews …
Coventry was quite nice before the Luftwaffe knackered it. The problem is that the centre largely got rebuilt in the 1960s - which meant horrific concrete brutalist awfulness. The sort of buildings that only an architect can love. Obviously a lot of stuff got rebuilt on the cheap, so that was one reason so many British town centres got ruined, but it didn't help that the architectural profession seems to have suffered a 40 lapse in good taste.
Indeed. I wanted to get the parts needed to build my son a fleet of 10 micro-sized Imperial Star Destroyers. Because the official Lego "buy parts" site had (disappointingly) few of the parts required, I had to source them piecemeal from a range of ebay used-lego merchants. Cost me about £40 all up, even with making a few compromises on colour.
I've always wondered why they chose to dump it on Australia. I've never heard it officially confirmed but I'd imagine that Skylab had quite a bit of technology that the Americans would not have wanted being distributed over a "non-friendly" nation. I wouldn't mind betting they were aiming to de-orbit Skylab so it ended up crashing into the nearby Woomera Rocket Range and just ended up falling short instead. This is where lots of secret stuff that the Americans and British wanted to play with ended up being tested. Even today you're not allowed to deviate from the main highway and go through this area. I was just a kid in those days and we were worried they would drop it on a larger east coast city.
Responsible users plan for satellite end of life with fuel reserves and backup comms.
NASA was a little more 'adventurous' back in the day. They didn't really have much control of the massive Skylab's reentry.
The only reason they even announced where it was likely to land was that they dropped the saturn v booster that launched it onto the north hemisphere without much thought and there was a certain amount of bad press at the idea of the USA dropping kilotons of energy at random on people
I've done the science on the Skylab launch, and it's obviously impossible to put a structure of that size in orbit! You'll just have to trust my calculations, which I'm not going to post here, or my sources. If Skylab is possible, why did we abandon it? What don't they want us to know? Don't believe the official story!
Having been to Esperance (with my newly minted wife 25+ years ago) and wandered through the museum, I must admit that they did a good job of making the best of a bit of illegal dumping. Makes a change from the local bogans dumping their used mattress and broken washing machine out on some bush track.
Must be a quiet news week as there have been a few reports about it. Apparently people are still finding bits of it.
"it is also worth noting that that it is also the 40th anniversary of its engineers regaining control of a 77,000 kg (169,756lb) derelict space station and successfully sending it back to Earth..."
Ahh, this is obviously a new use of the word "control" that I was not previously familiar with.
And I AM going on memory here. I was 12, but a decent science/space buff, so I was paying quite a bit of attention.
1) Saying that NASA had "control" of the descent is just silly. If they had control, it would have landed in the Pacific. In one big piece or twenty.
2) As the orbit deteriorated, we got increasingly restrictive zones where it might land. The early reports were something like, "between 40 degrees North and 40 degrees South). Talking heads mentioned that this included pretty much every national capital. The did not (publicly) narrow it to the Pacific until (much) less than a week before terminal fall.
3) This was HORRIBLE publicity for NASA. The each delay in the shuttle program led to another spasm of worry about Skylab. Each pulling in of the Skylab estimate led to a spasm of worry about the shuttle. The talking heads indicated that it did not help our (already weak) situation diplomatically, either.
Once it was over, pop culture had a ball with it. I remember a prime-time add for Playboy, of all things, almost two years later, where the guy throws the mag in the air, and exclaims, "The last piece of Skylab!" to get people to leave him alone with the mag.
The fact that no-one was injured was purely fortuitous. The station was totally out of control for hours prior to crashing and could have landed in the middle of Sydney, in the middle of the Indian Ocean, or anywhere in between! It was all a matter of cross your fingers and hope that it went into a sparsely populated area or the open ocean. Statitistically that was more probable than hitting a populated area, so only to that extent was the final trajectory "selected" as the least worst option.
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