TODAY IN HISTORY, JULY 11, 1979:
America’s first space station, Skylab, was the brain child of Werner Von Braun, the rocket scientist the U. S. had harvested from the Nazi rocket program.
Skylab had three missions through the seventies, during which the astronauts involved completed numerous experiments which advanced the space program. More missions were planned, utilizing the nascent Space Shuttle Program.
Skylab’s orbit began to deteriorate, and plans were made to boost its trajectory using the Space Shuttle or other options. Delays in the Shuttle Program made the recovery efforts untenable, and on July 11, 1979 the space station re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere and broke apart…mostly. NASA managed to guide it away from populated areas…mostly. The debris fell into the Southern Indian Ocean, and onto Western Australia.
The event was a media sensation, due to a great deal of uncertainty regarding where Skylab would come down…onto your house in the mid west? The ocean? New York City? For weeks the impending doom was the subject of television specials, political cartoons, selling gimmicks, you name it. After the demise, the jurisdiction in Australia where some of the debris fell sent NASA a fine of $400 for “littering” as a joke.