[vi] The initiation of our first space station program in 1966 based on hardware developed for other programs was a modest beginning for what was to become a mission of unparalleled scope once flight operations began. Bold in concept, the program demanded innovation and ingenuity dur-ing its design, development, and test phase as the required flight hardware became more firmly defined, and the planned flight operations came more clearly into focus. Experience and knowledge gained from earlier space programs provided a solid foundation on which to build, but the Skylab program was truly making new pathways in the sky and pioneering on a new frontier.
The vast accomplishments of Skylab-in solar and stellar astronomy, in the detailed study of our planet from the incomparable vantage of orbit, in using the exciting new laboratory tool of weightlessness, and in proving that man can work productively in space for extended periods-are almost too profound to grasp. The data on solar physics contains new and valuable information on the Sun's corona and the solar winds and opens up new concepts to be explored in future solar astronomy programs. In the area of technology, the data from Skylab's space processing experiments opens a completely new dimension in the field of materials processing. Crystals grown in Skylab have shown structural perfection, uniformity, and relative size not attainable on Earth, and the experiments performed with metal alloys and composites have aroused keen interest in future possibilities of materials processing under conditions of weightlessness.
In my opinion, the finest accomplishment of Skylab was the demonstration of the uniqueness of man in space in solving problems and overcoming obstacles in the face of extreme adversity. Shortly after liftoff of the unmanned Skylab space station, serious problems developed starting with the loss of the micrometeorite shield, which resulted in a total loss of heat balance in the workshop and a substantial loss in the solar power generation system. Facing what could have been a total loss of our first space station, the Skylab team-both the flightcrews and the thousands of engineers, technicians, and support personnel on the ground- converted these awe-inspiring challenges to opportunities that demonstrated man's role in space far beyond the most ambitious dreams of most space planners.
The legacy of the Skylab program to be passed on to planners and operators of future manned space programs is best stated in two words: "Can do! "
ROCCO A. PETRONE
..observed the Sun and the heavens beyond with a clarity never before possible......