Space History Photo: Emergency Sun-Shade Stitched for Skylab

space history, Skylab Orbital Workshop
Seamstresses sewed a protective shield to replace the one lost during the Skylab launch. (Image credit: NASA.)

The first United States experimental space station in orbit, Skylab, lost its thermal protection shield, or sun-shade, during launch on May 14, 1973. Sans a shield, temperatures in Skylab became dangerously high, rendering the orbital workshop uninhabitable and threatening to ruin the interior insulation and adhesive. Something had to be done quickly before the first crew could be sent to man the orbiting lab.

Engineers and scientists worked around the clock to develop an emergency repair procedure. In this picture, two seamstresses stitch together a sun-shade for the craft. The Skylab crew and the repair kits were launched just 11 days after the incident. The crew deployed the sun-shade during an EVA (Extravehicular Activity) the next day.

The Skylab mission aimed to prove humans could live and work in space for extended periods. Three, three-man crews occupied Skylab for a total of 171 days and 13 hours and did nearly 300 scientific and technical experiments, including medical experiments on humans' adaptability to zero gravity, solar experiments and detailed Earth resources experiments.

The empty Skylab spacecraft met a fiery demise when it was brought back through the atmosphere on July 11, 1979, scattering debris over the Indian Ocean and the sparsely settled region of Western Australia.

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