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Human Outposts in SpaceSpace stations provide habitats for humans in space on longer-duration missions. These stations do not possess abilities to launch or land, being designed for use in space only. Several space stations have orbited the Earth since 1971, with two currently active at the time of this writing.
FIRST STOP: Soviet Union's Salyut Stations
Salyut 1 — Salyut 5 (Soviet Union)Slide 2 of 14
Salyut 1 — Salyut 5 (Soviet Union)Launched by the Soviet Union in 1971, the Salyut 1 space station orbited the Earth almost 3,000 times during its 175 days in space before intentionally crashing into the Pacific Ocean. The station stretched about 65 feet (20 meters) long and 13 feet (4 meters) in diameter at its widest point.
Tragedy struck the station's mission when the second crew to visit, aboard Soyuz 11, experienced depressurization during their return to Earth, killing all three cosmonauts. The station did not host any further visitors. The Soviet Union then attempted to orbit stations DOS-2, Salyut 2 and Cosmos 557, but failed. Salyut 3 experienced some flaws, while Salyut 4 and Salyut 5 completed their missions successfully.
NEXT: Salyut 6 and 7Slide 3 of 14
Salyut 6 and Salyut 7 (Soviet Union)Slide 4 of 14
Salyut 6 and Salyut 7 (Soviet Union)Both of these stations represented a second generation of the Salyut program. A new design possessed two docking ports, allowing refueling and resupply from uncrewed Progress cargo ships.
Durations of stays increased, and crews could receive visitors. A Salyut 6 crew stayed for 185 days, the longest duration at that time, beating the 84-day record of the last Skylab crew. Salyut 6 launched in 1977 and deorbited in 1982. Salyut 7 launched in 1982 and deorbited in 1991. [Top 10 Russian and Soviet Space Missions]
NEXT: Skylab, NASA's 1st Space StationSlide 5 of 14
Skylab (United States)Slide 6 of 14
Skylab (United States)The United States launched its first space station, Skylab, in 1973. The mission experienced severe problems almost immediately, as on launch a meteorite shield tore off, ripping away a solar array and preventing the other from operating. The decrease in power represented a great obstacle.
The first crew that arrived 11 days later had to confront many frustrating challenges. Having overcome the initial difficulties, three three-person crews visited the station.[Photos: Skylab, the 1st U.S. Space Station]
The third crew set a record of 84 days in space, but not without complaint about overwork, which led to tensions and finally compromise with ground controllers. Skylab deorbited on July 11, 1979, well ahead of schedule because of high solar activity, with some spacecraft parts accidentally impacting Western Australia. Notably, the impending re-entry of Skylab produced a huge media reaction, and inspired a hilarious rant by John Belushi on the Saturday Night Live television show. [See photos of Skylab debris in Australia]
NEXT: Mir, Russia's Long-Lived OutpostSlide 7 of 14
Mir (Soviet Union/Russia)Slide 8 of 14