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Skylab: America's first space base

NASA marks 40th anniversary of the space science outpost Skylab.

The 40th anniversary of the Skylab orbiting research facility . NASA
Launched 40 years ago in May 1973, Skylab was America's first space station -- a research facility that established the standards for long duration life in orbit and gave NASA a chance to look back on Earth in ways never before possible.

The goals for the space lab were primarily to enrich our scientific knowledge of the Earth, the sun, and the stars. Experiments tackled the possibilities for the future of life in space, and the basic notions of how space affects living beings.

Skylab looked at the effects of weightlessness on man and other organisms, the effects of the processing and manufacturing of materials utilizing the absence of gravity, and made key Earth resource observations for the first time.

Occupied in succession by three teams of three crew members, these crews spent 28, 59, and 84 days orbiting the Earth and performing nearly 300 experiments. Thorough medical research programs, particularly on the Skylab 3 mission focused on extended life in space and studied the effects on human physiological adaptation.

Extensive biological experiments studied the effects of microgravity on life -- mice, fruit flies, and single cells, observing muscle growth conditions, and the distribution of fluids -- human lung cells were flown to examine the biochemical characteristics of cell cultures in the microgravity environment. Essentially, work aboard Skylab set the basic scientific understanding of how human life might survive away from Earth.