The first US space station, Skylab, was launched forty years ago with a simple but far-reaching brief: expand man’s knowledge of the Sun and prove that humans can live and work in space for extended periods. Three separate crews successfully achieved that, so why aren’t more of us living in space yet? On May 14th 1973 NASA launched the Skylab space station into orbit. After a decade defined by lunar exploration and the Apollo programme, space travel was moving into a new age, one of space stations.
“Skylab will represent a milestone of paramount importance in the American space programme,” wrote Dr. Ernst Stuhlinger, Associate Director of Science at the Marshall Space Flight Center, and Leland F. Belew, Manager of the Skylab programme, in 1973.
Weighing 77.5 tonnes, Skylab was the largest craft yet to be launched into space. It needed to be, to house the well-equipped laboratories and living quarters for three astronauts, suitable for extended periods of time.
David S. Akens, a member of NASA’s historical staff, stated at the time that “Skylab is the most ambitious project in space to date”.
11 days later, the first crew left Earth, heading for Skylab. They were led by Commander Charles ‘Pete’ Conrad, a veteran of three previous space missions. The crew immediately had difficulties to contend with. During the space station’s lift-off, a crucial meteoroid shield had been ripped off, along with a solar panel. Temperatures inside the Skylab workshop, which was facing the Sun, had reached a sweltering 52°C.
The crew managed to deploy a parasol sunshade, which lowered temperatures to 24°C. By June 4th, 10 days after they had arrived, the workshop was fully operational. Collectively, three separate Skylab crews spent 171 days in space – each new crew breaking the previous crew’s spaceflight duration record. It was a remarkable achievement. NASA had begun operations less than 15 years previously, and the first rudimentary designs of Skylab had been sketched out in 1966.
Integrated Space Plan
Optimism at NASA continued well into the 1980s, with the launch of the space shuttle. Designed to be reusable, the shuttle could transport crew to any orbiting space station and back again.
In 1989, a US aerospace company, Rockwell International, mapped out where all this would lead. The Rockwell Integrated Space Plan – an immensely detailed vision of humanity’s future in space – began with the shuttle programme, and outlined the next 120 years of human space flight.
According to the Integrated Space Plan, an International Lunar Base would be established by 2009. By 2029, mankind was expected to have engineered an operational Mars base. And around 2100, large-scale human expansion into the cosmos would begin.
LinkedIn tells prostitutes to go away
LinkedIn’s new user agreement includes a surprising clause: No promoting prostitution or escort services on your profile, even if it’s legal where you live. ReadWriteWeb spotted the unusual inclusion, and wondered if it was even truly necessary. In its words, “would anyone really take the risk of advertising adult services?” What it quickly learned: yes. It surfaced the profile of one San Diego man who lists “escort” as one of his job titles and touts his work giving “ALL NUDE, full-body massages” … while amusingly adding that he’s also interested in academic work and “perhaps advising corporations on health and fitness issues.”
It turns out LinkedIn users can also be “endorsed” for the “skill” of prostitution, but ReadWriteWeb notes that it appears the “skill” is usually held by law enforcement officers or religious counselors who ostensibly work with prostitutes. And then there’s Europe: LinkedIn’s terms previously banned the promotion of “unlawful” services, but such work is legal in parts of the continent.