Skylab badge
Credit: NASA

Skylab was the USA's first space station, orbiting the Earth from 1973 to 1979. Skylab was launched and operated by NASA. The space station had a workshop, a solar observatory, scientific laboratory equipment, and living quarters for the crew.

Skylab's primary science goal was to study the Sun. It used multiple instruments which could observe the Sun in different wavelengths of light. It also tested new technology, observed a comet, and monitored radiation levels during spaceflight.

Skylab in orbit around the Earth
Credit: NASA/Skylab 4 crew

The space station was launched unmanned by the Saturn V rocket. The Saturn V rocket was also used to launch the Apollo Moon landing missions. Once the station was in orbit, three manned rockets took the astronauts to Skylab. There were three crew members in each rocket, and so a total of 9 astronauts visited Skylab.

As the space station aged, its orbit was slowly bringing it closer to the Earth's surface. The NASA team adjusted Skylab so that, when it eventually fell to the Earth, it would cause minimal damage. When the station entered the Earth's atmosphere, it began to burn and disintegrate into smaller pieces. People in South Africa and Australia reported sightings of colourful fireworks and flares in the sky - this was Skylab returning to Earth.