Since the first ‘proper’ Haynes Owners Workshop Manual, for the Austin Healey ‘Frogeye’ Sprite, was published in 1966, the publisher has covered the innards of many a vehicle – both factual and fictional, some of the covered here on downthetubes. But while the workings of Thunderbird 2 will surely delight many a fan of Gerry Anderson’s puppet shows, it’s real space vehicles like the Saturn V rocket that took men to the moon and, most recently, Skylab, that surely offer far more to the technically minded (or simply a present for the Dan Dare fan in your life).
Skylab was officially named in 1969 as the first US space station and it was developed out of an existing set of Apollo hardware. The space station orbited the Earth from 1973 to 1979, and supported three extended periods in orbit for astronaut teams between mid-1973 and early 1974. Skylab re-entered Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrated in 1979. It set a precedent for the International Space Station, assembly of which began almost 25 years after the last Skylab crew departed.
The Haynes Manual focuses on the engineering and design of Skylab, which was designed to carry out three categories of scientific study: Earth observation; observations of the Sun; and the effects of the weightless environment on humans.
It also describes the adapted Apollo spacecraft used to ferry astronauts to the station, and the new launch method for the Saturn IB rockets used to send astronauts to Skylab.
Growing up in the 1970s, following the lunar missions and Soyuz, Skylab might seem almost ramshackle now compared with the ISS, but it seemed, back then, just one more step toward further human exploration of space. Those of us faithfully collecting PG Tips “Space” cards, reading the amazing plans for space exploration in the Sunday newspaper supplements (often accompanied by jaw-dropping art), followed Skylab’s progress in the earnest expectation of greater things, still unrealised.
The Manual reveals much of the practicalities of long stays in space, from its effect on humans to design issues – how to eat and shower (the latter, it seems, uncomfortably) for example. It’s a fascinating insight into the first long term American space station’s construction and maintenance, reflecting much of the continued learning curve NASA was on. Worth a look.
East Sussex-based author Dr. David Baker worked with NASA on the Gemini, Apollo and Shuttle programmes between 1965 and 1990. He has written more than 80 books on spaceflight technology and is also the author of the Haynes NASA Space Shuttle Manual, International Space Station Manual, NASA Mars Rovers Manual, Apollo 13 Manual, Soyuz Manual, Rocket Manual and Hubble Space Telescope Manual.
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