Human Spaceflights

International Flight No. 47

Skylab 4


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Launch, orbit and landing data

Launch date:  16.11.1973
Launch time:  14:01 UTC
Launch site:  Cape Canaveral (KSC)
Launch pad:  39-B
Altitude:  415 - 424 km
Inclination:  50.04°
Docking Skylab:  16.11.1973, 21:55:00 UTC
Undocking Skylab:  08.02.1974, 02:33:12 UTC
Landing date:  08.02.1974
Landing time:  15:16 UTC
Landing site:  31° 18' N, 119° 48' W

walkout photo

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alternate crew photo

alternate crew photo

alternate crew photo


No.   Surname Given names Position Flight No. Duration Orbits
1  Carr  Gerald Paul "Jerry"  CDR 1 84d 01h 15m  1214 
2  Gibson  Edward George  PLT 1 84d 01h 15m  1214 
3  Pogue  William Reid  CMP 1 84d 01h 15m  1214 

Crew seating arrangement

1  Carr
2  Gibson
3  Pogue

Backup Crew

No.   Surname Given names Position
1  Brand  Vance DeVoe  CDR
2  Lenoir  William Benjamin "Bill"  PLT
3  Lind  Don Leslie  CMP

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Support Crew

  Surname Given names
 Crippen  Robert Laurel "Crip"
 Truly  Richard Harrison "Dick"
 Hartsfield  Henry Warren, Jr. "Hank"
 Thornton  William Edgar


Launch from Cape Canaveral (KSC); landing 289 km southwest of San Diego in the Pacific Ocean.

This mission carried the third and final crew of the space station Skylab.

The crew arrived on Skylab to find that they had company up there - three figures dressed in flight suits. Upon closer inspection, they found their companions were three dummies, complete with Skylab 4 mission patches and name tags which had been left there by Alan Bean, Jack Lousma, and Owen Garriott at the end of Skylab 3.

The all-rookie astronaut crew had problems adjusting to the same workload level as their predecessors when activating the workshop. Things got off to a bad start after the crew attempted to hide one astronaut's early space sickness from flight surgeons, a fact discovered by mission controllers after downloading onboard voice recordings. The crew's initial task of unloading and stowing the thousands of items needed for their lengthy mission also proved to be overwhelming. The schedule for the activation sequence dictated lengthy work periods with a large variety of tasks to be performed, and the crew soon found themselves tired and behind schedule.

As the activation of Skylab progressed, the astronauts complained of being pushed too hard. Ground crews disagreed; they felt that the astronauts were not working long enough or hard enough. During the course of the mission, this culminated in a radio conference to air frustrations. Following this, the workload schedule was modified, and by the end of their mission the crew had completed even more work than had been planned before launch. The experiences of the crew and ground controllers provided important lessons in planning subsequent manned spaceflight work schedules.

EVAs were performed by William Pogue and Edward Gibson on November 22, 1973 (6h 34m) in which an antenna was repaired, Gerald Carr and William Pogue on December 25, 1973 (7h 03m), Gerald Carr and Edward Gibson on December 29, 1973 (3h 29m), and again Gerald Carr and Edward Gibson on February 03, 1974 (5h 19m).

Seven days into their mission, a problem developed in the Skylab attitude control gyroscope system, which threatened to bring an early end to the mission. Skylab depended upon three large gyroscopes, sized so that any two of them could provide sufficient control and maneuver Skylab as desired. The third acted as a backup in the event of failure of one of the others. The gyroscope failure was attributed to insufficient lubrication. Later in the mission, a second gyroscope showed similar problems, but special temperature control and load reduction procedures kept the second one operating, and no further problems occurred.

The crew spent many hours studying the Earth. Gerald Carr and William Pogue alternately manned controls, operating the sensing devices which measured and photographed selected features on the Earth's surface. The crew also made solar observations, recording about 75,000 new telescopic images of the Sun. Images were taken in the X-ray, ultraviolet, and visible portions of the spectrum.

As the end of their mission drew closer, Edward Gibson continued his watch of the solar surface. On January 21, 1974, an active region on the Sun's surface formed a bright spot which intensified and grew. Edward Gibson quickly began filming the sequence as the bright spot erupted. This film was the first recording from space of the birth of a solar flare.

On December 13, 1973 the crew sighted Comet Kohoutek and trained the solar observatory and hand-held cameras on it. They continued to photograph it as it approached the Sun. On December 30, 1973 as it swept out from behind the Sun

The crew also photographed the Earth from orbit. Despite instructions not to do so, the crew (perhaps inadvertently) photographed Area 51, causing a minor dispute between various government agencies as to whether the photographs showing this secret facility should be released. In the end, the picture was published along with all others in NASA's Skylab image archive, but remained unnoticed for years.

A new world record for individual time in space was set. Until today it is the longest manned flight of the USA. Massive problems between crew and ground control were reported. It is said, that too much work for the crew might have been the reason and that especially William Pogue suffered from Space Adaptation Syndrome during the first days, which was not correct reported to ground control.

The crew was recovered by the USS New Orleans.

Photos / Drawings

crew in training crew in training
Earth observation
Sun observation Comet Kohoutek
Earth observation

more Earth observation photos


Last update on June 30, 2014.