Skylab came up in conversation the other day. And then I ran into Amy Shira Teitel’s video. So, naturally, a quick blog post.
Skylab was brought down, ultimately, by interaction with the upper reaches of the atmosphere, which was in turn made more likely by solar activity. But, both the nature and extent of solar activity of this type, and its effects on the atmosphere, were not understood when Skylab was being designed and deployed. Indeed, understanding this set of phenomena was a contribution made by Skylab science. Had Skylab been launched after, rather than before, this was better understood, it may have been put into higher orbit, or it may have been equipped with boosters (like the International Space Station is) to periodically raise the orbit.
Anyway, eventually, the orbiting research lab came down, and you may (or may not) remember all the press, the jokes, the anxiety, the fun…
Anyway, Amy has this piece on what NASA did and didn’t do about Skylab’s demise.