26 February 2018 Reviews

Skylab 3 – The NASA Mission Reports

Although many people are well aware of the International Space Station, those without a particular interest in space history may not realise that America had a large and capable space station in the 1970s. The Skylab Orbital Workshop was a converted Saturn V third stage, left over from the Apollo lunar programme, and hosted three 3-man crews in 1973 and 1974.

This book – the latest in Apogee’s long-running NASA Mission Reports series – covers Skylab 3, the second of the three manned Skylab missions (Skylab 1 was the launch of the station itself and was the subject, along with Skylab 2, of a previous volume). The signature feature of the Mission Reports series is the ‘bonus DVD’ included with the books. In this case, the DVD includes a launch video, a 14-minute ‘Skylab 3’ mission documentary, a 55-minute guided tour of the station with astronaut Jack Lousma and a ‘digital animation’ of the station. The archive film is fairly low definition in today’s terms but the animation reel provides a clear impression of the station’s interior. Along with the 350-page book, the DVD makes this a good value-for-money package.

The book itself has three main sections: the Skylab 3 press kit from July 1973; the mission report (which fills some 170 pages of the volume); and a transcript of the Technical Crew Debriefing (another 150 pages). The mission report section is illustrated with black-and-white photos and facsimiles of the original line drawings, diagrams and tables; it covers everything from training and medical experiments to food and other consumables. The debriefing is akin to an extended interview and provides readers with invaluable insight not only into a Skylab mission, but to living and working in space in general. Indeed, these Skylab mission debriefs should be required reading for any budding space mission designers.

An important factor for a space station is its size and Skylab compares extremely well with the ISS considering the four decades that separate the two. Taking into account Skylab’s so-called Apollo Telescope Mount (designed for solar observations), an airlock module and a docking adapter, its total volume was some 360m3 (compared with about 930m3 for the ISS).

America’s first space station no longer exists, having long ago re-entered the atmosphere, burnt up and showered Western Australia with the remaining debris. However, this book does a great job in keeping the memory of its significant accomplishments alive.

Mark Williamson

Popular articles

Popular articles

CAPSTONE navigates to and captures an image of the Moon in Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO) for its primary mission. Astronautics

Satellite manufacturing - building to size, speed and security

From the Earth to Mars, published in 2023 by Multiverse Media Inc (multiversepublishingllc.com), ISBN: 978-1-960119-67-4. Lounge

From the Earth to Mars