Skylab 4 crew returns home, February 8, 1974

-February 08, 2018

Skylab 4 patchDespite a rocky start, NASA’s Skylab 4 mission was considered a success and completed on February 8, 1974, when the three-man crew returned safely to Earth.

Although named “Skylab 4,” this was the third mission of the US space station program and therefore has a 3 in its mission patch (see right). It was also the last Skylab mission.

When the crew -- Gerald P. Carr, William R. Pogue, and Edward G. Gibson -- launched on a Saturn IB rocket on November 16, 1973. When they arrived aboard Skylab, they found three dummies left on board as a prank by the Skylab 3 team.

Skylab 4 crew
Gerald P. Carr, Edward G. Gibson, and William R. Pogue (L-R) crewed Skylab 4.

Upon take off, the crew chose to hide one member’s space sickness from flight surgeons. The all-rookie crew also complained about the food on board, saying it was bland, and grumbled about the amount of work they were expected to do. However, by the end of the mission, the crew had accomplished more tasks than had been expected.

Skylab Orbital WorkshopIn their 84 days in space, Skylab 4 completed 1,214 Earth orbits and four extravehicular activities (spacewalks) totaling 22 hours, 13 minutes. They recorded about 75,000 new telescopic images of the Sun, and the first recording from space of the birth of a solar flare. The crew also sighted Comet Kohoutek and trained the solar observatory and hand-held cameras on it. They continued to photograph it as it approached the Sun.

And, despite orders not to, the crew took photos of Area 51 when photographing the Earth from orbit. This reportedly caused some internal disagreements within US government agencies as to whether the images should be published. In the end, they were presented with the other Skylab 4 images.  

Related images:

For more moments in tech history, see this blog. EDN strives to be historically accurate with these postings. Should you see an error, please notify us.

Editor's note: This article was originally posted on February 8, 2013 and edited on February 8, 2018.

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