Owen, Jack And I Were A Happy Crew
Jack Lousma in the center, Owen Garriott on the right and I are in the Skylab Mockup training for our 56-day mission to America's first Space Station. We are scheduled to launch in July of 1973 and we will have been training for over two years learning all we need to know about living for two months in space and operating all the equipment and experiments abroad Skylab.
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To freeze the slideshow, click any thumbnail below. All photos courtesy of NASA.
Jack, Owen and I are in that little cone-shaped Command Module on top of the Saturn 1B rocket, headed up to rendezvous with the orbiting Skylab space station.
The Skylab 2 crew, Pete Conrad, Joe Kerwin and Paul Weitz had returned a few weeks earlier from their 28-day stay and we had learned a lot from them about what our life would be like orbiting 260 miles above the Earth for two months.
We were all looking forward to a great adventure. Here we are on our final approach to Skylab. We can see the Workshop, with its single solar panel extending out to the left, orbiting high above the Amazon River way down there on planet Earth.
Above the Workshop, where Jack, Owen and I are going to spend most of our time for the next 56 days, is the Apollo Telescope Mount with its 4 solar panels facing the sun.
The dark circular area closest to us is the port where we plan to dock our Command Module in just a few minutes. One of the benefits of constructing the Workshop inside the 3rd stage of the Saturn V rocket that launched the Skylab Space Station, was the large volume that became available. Within this spacious interior, I can evaluate a variety of control and stablization systems for future Astronaut Maneuvering Units in a safe environment.
Engineers can then design these Maneuvering Units so that they will perform effectively and reliably when we need to use them outside the safety of our space stations or space ships in the future. One of the most important experiments we had abroad the Skylab was the Apollo Telescope Mount. It was a group of six separate intruments designed to look at the sun and see things that couldn't be seen from Earth because of our atmosphere.
This is an image of the sun taken by the Naval Reserch Laboraratory spectroheliograph. Here I am in my spacesuit, floating outside of Skylab. I am 260 miles up, traveling 18,000 miles per hour. I can see many places on Earth that are only familiar to me from maps in my geography books in high school.
I look to the left and see the Nile River all the way into Africa as far as the Aswan Dam. It is about the size of a pinhead but looks exactly like a miniscule dam.
I look the other way and I can see Sicily and the whole boot of Italy headed up into Europe.
It feels like I am on the front of a 747 moving across the world. We have to perform a numer of chores each day to keep our home in space functioning smoothly, just like we have to do tasks here on Earth to keep our homes habitable. Right now I am putting some chemicals in a potable water tank so that the water inside will remain healthy for us to drink over the next several months.
I am holding onto the end of that tank with my right hand so I will remain in position to service the tank with my left.
Living in zero gravity is a lot of fun, but when I want to do useful work I must stablize myself with a handhold or foothold. Owen, Jack and I are having some fun around the dinner table in the ward room. In zero gravity, eating and swallowing are just as effective no matter what position your body is in.
One day at lunch I observed Owen's and Jack's shirts were spotted with food and mine was still nice and clean, so I began to kid them about it. They each started looking closely at their shirt and at about the same time they said "Wait a minute, Al. Most of these food spots are chili and you are the only one of our crew that eats chili."
We all thought about it for a few seconds, and then started laughing, because we realized that in zero gravity, if you are a messy eater, your shirt doesn't get dirty, the other guys' shirt does." We are only going to be up in Skylab for about 2 months, so we each can easily go without a haircut. One of our goals, however, since our mission would be the longest time American Astronauts have spent in space so far, is to evaluate all the things that we would need to do to live in space for even longer periods.
Owen is giving me a haircut and we definitely do not want all those little hairs floating around in the air and getting in our eyes, noses and months. The vaccum hose was able to do that job effectively, preventing any future problems. I was a wanna-be gymnast and diver in college but I wasn't very good at either. However, inside the Workshop, in zero G, I was able to do spins, twists and other tumbling and diving acrobatics that even Olympic athletes back on Earth couldn't do.
I did a lot of these for fun in the first week or two, and not so many after that. Near the end of our mission, I thought "You know, I'll never get a chance to be this great an athlete again, so I did a bunch more before we headed back to Earth." It was a beautiful day when Owen, Jack and I splashed down in the Pacific Ocean several hundred miles southwest of San Diego. The frogmen arrived a short time later by helicopter and are attaching an orange floatation colar around our Command Module.
I remember telling Owen and Jack that I was real proud of the fact that we had giving everything we had to give for the last 59 days. We had done as much as it was humanly possible for us to do, to make our mission a success.
We found out later we had accomplished 150% of our pre-mission predicted goals. I think I am more proud of our effort, than anything I accomplished in my 18 years as an Astronaut.