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Owen K. Garriott 1930-2019 ; Skylab SL-3 Shuttle STS-9
Written by Carl Alessi 
As I look back on the events surrounding Dr. Garriott’s life, I’m struck by many of the “firsts” that could be attributed to his long and storied career. I’m also impressed by many of the in-flight problems that he and his crewmates encountered as they learned to live and work in that most rewarding and unforgiving of exploration environments, space.
The path to Owen Garriott’s career in NASA was paved with a remarkable first: he was among the first group of six science astronauts recruited by the program in 1965. Having earned a doctorate in electrical engineering, his assignment to the prime crew of Skylab 3 as a science pilot would be a natural fit for a man skilled in a broad array of technological and natural science skills. As a member of the Skylab 3 crew, Garriott and fellow astronauts Alan Bean and Jack Lousma would be the first humans to spend 59 days living and working in space. And his technical skills would be put to tests, in terms of both imagination and endurance, in ways that could scarcely be conceived of prior to the launch of the new orbital station.
It didn’t take long after Skylab 3’s launch for Garriott and his crewmates to realize that something had gone wrong with their Apollo spacecraft. Upon achieving orbit, a look through the right-most window revealed globules of frozen liquid drifting away into space, debris which was no doubt originating from their vehicle. At the very onset of the long-duration mission, they were confronted with a leak from a nozzle of one of their reaction control system thrusters. Six days later another leak from the opposite side of the spacecraft’s service module crippled another reaction control system quad. While docked with Skylab, a coolant leak developed inside the Command Module itself; still, another leak began in the primary coolant loop for Skylab’s Airlock Module. And along with the Apollo spacecraft manoeuvring thruster failures, Skylab itself suffered the failure of control moment gyros that were used to orient the entire complex in orbit.

You may be wondering at this point how Dr. Garriott, along with Al Bean and Jack Lousma, managed these problems, and how they impacted their productivity in what was planned to be an unprecedentedly long mission. Quite simply, they fixed what could be fixed, and worked around what they could not. And the net impact of all these fixes on the mission? By drastically cutting into everything from sleep time to mealtime to off-duty time, they exceeded their planned activity for experiments in the Apollo Telescope Mount by 54%, their medical experiments by 18% and earth studies by 43%…by those metrics making them the most productive crew up to that point in the history of spaceflight.
Dr Garriott contributed to another set of firsts as a member of Space Shuttle mission STS-9, the first six-person crew to fly into space. As a scientist aboard that first mission of Spacelab, the station mated within the payload bay of the shuttle Columbia, Garriott actually became the first man to ever transmit and receive broadcasts over a “ham” radio, which provided him with a platform to comment on the work his team was doing while studying plasma and solar physics, along with their many observations into geophysics. But challenges abounded once again, and this time they cascaded into frightening reality when Columbia prepared for entry at mission’s end: when Commander John Young pitched the Columbia into the proper attitude for entry, the abrupt impulse from the shuttle’s manoeuvring thrusters caused one of the ship’s general-purpose computers to crash. Shortly thereafter a second computer crashed as well, causing a landing delay of eight hours until that second computer could be reliably booted and checked out (it turned out later that the shock of from the firing of Columbia’s reaction control thrusters knocked solder loose in the first computer, causing a short). As if all that were not enough, the successful landing was followed by the discovery that two Auxiliary Power Units near Columbia’s tail had caught fire due to a propellant leak.
 Dr Owen Garriott: as we pause to look back upon the life of this most amazing man, we realize that what we’ve seen above is merely a cropped snapshot of that life. Owen Garriott continued an active career in science and aerospace until he passed away in his home at age 88. Imagination, dedication, courage, a broad grasp of ideas and skills, and of course, endurance—these are the signatures of a life well-lived.
Thank you, Dr Garriott.

About Author: Carl Alessi

Carl grew up in Orange County, California during a time when several of his family’s friends worked on the Apollo project. A life-long devotee of the manned space program, he has published articles on the history of NASA’s early attempts to piece together a strategy to land men on the moon by the end of the 1960s. When offered the opportunity to anticipate the project that became “Searching For Skylab” he leapt at the chance to write a screenplay for what he recognised was a fascinating and worthy component of NASA’s early history to forge a pathway for humans to live and work in space.

Why Are We Sharing This?
We believe that knowing Skylab today, can still lead to amazing projects tomorrow.

And maybe you are the one getting inspired?

In our view, you too deserve to know how Skylab initiated changes to our lives on Earth without having to research the NASA archives for decades in the process.

Having done the research, we were also able to speak with many of the astronauts in person and record their Skylab stories.

Today, we feel it is our duty to share with you what we found and bring you closer to the astronauts themselves, the true American heroes, who worked on what many consider "one of NASA's most important programmes ever".

To this day, arguably, up to 40% of data collected by Skylab has not been analysed due to the lack of scientists.

Are you the one who will contribute to another marvellous change in our world while standing on the shoulders of giants? Even if you "only" spread the Skylab stories, you might.

Thanks for sharing.
If this story makes you hungry for more, awesome! Join us on SKYLAB EXCLUSIVE today!
Written by Dwight Steven-Boniecki
Skylab was – in my view – way more important for NASA than anything which came before or since.
But I didn’t always think that.

How My Adventure Began
When I was 10 years old, a poster that had been placed in the main window looking out into the schoolyard of our principal’s office detailed the impending doom of the Space Station. I can vividly recall the iconic “windmill” solar panel design, and the title of the poster: “Skylab is Falling!”

A few days later, on the evening of July 11, 1979 (Australian time), I went to bed terrified that Skylab would hit our house, and our house alone, in the suburbs of West Sydney. It was with much relief that I awoke the next morning to a fully intact house.
But that joy quickly turned to envy when I learned of a kid in Western Australia who had won $10,000 USD for being the first to bring in Skylab debris. How much Lego Space could I have bought with $10K?
And there began my assumption that Skylab was nothing but a failure. I learned how it was damaged upon launch, and how astronauts had to rescue it. A success? For my 10-year-old mind, hardly.

Discovering Skylab
It was when I was writing my first book, “Live TV From the Moon” that I started to hear about how great a project Skylab really was.
Stan Lebar, ex-Manager of the Westinghouse Lunar Surface Camera Division, and with whom I had telephoned every third day, would always relate the obligatory Apollo TV camera stories, but then would divert away by stating, “But Skylab is where we really started getting good!”
“Hmmm….” I thought, “why would the man in charge of the TV camera that recorded the first step of a human being on the lunar surface speak so highly of this Skylab thing?”
I would soon find out.
I acquired a series of telecasts made from Skylab, which were fortunately dated and labelled so as to ease my foray into assembling them chronologically.
When I started to watch the footage, my jaw dropped. At around the same time, I was in a Waterstones bookshop in Kingston, England.
Amidst all the Apollo books, one book stood alone: “Homesteading Space”, written by David Hitt, Joe Kerwin and Owen Garriott. Wanting a respite from reading about nothing but Apollo, I opted to purchase it.
And so began my love affair with Skylab.
Between the videos, “Homesteading Space”, and another book by David Shayler, “Skylab: America’s First Space Station” (which featured Jerry Carr’s autograph inside the front cover!!!) I began my quest to know all I could about Skylab.
Following Up Apollo
Following the success of “Live TV From the Moon”, Apogee Books CEO, Rob Godwin, gave me the green light to do the follow-up “Live TV From Orbit”, which detailed post-Apollo TV, and that included a big chunk of Skylab history. The more I delved, the more I wanted to know. I watched the videos. I read the books. I wrote more of my book. Then I repeated the cycle. Again, and again, and again.
I was impressed by the observations Skylab made of the sun. To quote Emily Carney in “Searching for Skylab”, “It re-wrote the book on solar physics!”
I wanted more. To drop another quote from “Searching for Skylab”, this one from Andrew Chaikin: “This was a whole new frontier!”
I learned about the daring rescue mission by the first crew, which managed to dislodge a jammed solar panel and deploy an emergency parasol to cool the station down after the micro-meteoroid shield had been ripped off the launch vehicle during launch. Had they not been successful, that would have been it for Skylab.
I read of the rescue plans for the second crew after the Control Thruster (RCS System) problems that threatened to hinder their safe return to earth. I was impressed with the long-duration missions, and I was humbled to learn that data from Skylab was still being used to plan ISS missions.
Then I joined a group on Facebook, called Space Hipsters, and found other people who loved Skylab as well. At the same time, I received the green light to compile the Skylab Mission Report series for Apogee books, and my knowledge of Skylab increased exponentially. Every anniversary I would post a snippet of Skylab mission footage to celebrate, until one day, someone suggested I turn all of that footage into a film about Skylab. I thought it was a great idea.
And so “Searching for Skylab” was born.
Searching for Skylab
On February 8, 2019, on the 45th anniversary of the splashdown of the last mission to the station, I presented to the world my greatest anniversary “video snippet” to date:
the feature-length film about Skylab, which looks for meaning in what Skylab actually brought humanity, as it seemed to have been forgotten in those 45 years.

And it appeared that the Gods of Space Travel were looking down on Searching for Skylab that day. Right before the film started, I was told that the ISS would fly directly over Huntsville. You cannot plan movie premieres any more spectacularly than that!

In future posts, I’ll go into more detail as to why I believe Skylab was so important to NASA. A lot of it is in the film. But a lot of it still needs to be told, lest we forget.

About Author: Dwight Steven-Boniecki

Award-winning author of Live TV from the Moon, Live TV from Orbit, and editor of Skylab 1 & 2: The NASA Mission Reports, Skylab 3: The NASA Mission Reports, and Skylab 4: The NASA Mission Reports, Dwight returns to the art of filmmaking. Armed with an in-depth knowledge of Skylab, he presents the largely forgotten Skylab Program in a detail on film not seen since 1973.

Dwight was born in Sydney, Australia and became an international broadcasting professional. After studying television theory at North Sydney Technical College he moved to San Diego, USA where he completed his TV production training. He returned to Australia and worked in TV before heading back to university majoring in Psychology. Television was the industry for which Dwight’s heart was really beating and so he returned to the industry. Naturally, when he heard of an unusual opportunity of expanding digital satellite TV in Eastern Europe he jumped on a plane. It is in Europe, having moved from Great Britain to Germany – where he still works today as a transmission engineer.

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