SP-4208 LIVING AND WORKING IN SPACE: A HISTORY OF SKYLAB

 

16

THE SECOND MISSION

Motion Sickness.
A Rescue Mission?.
Deploying the Twin-Pole Sunshade.
Solar Viewing.
Earth-Resource and Corollary Experiments.
More Mechanical Problems.
A Routine Day in Space.
A Team of Overachievers.
 

 

[295] The succession of battery and gyroscope failures early in the mission had raised serious doubts whether Skylab could survive two months without a crew. After determining that the medical office and the launch center could meet an earlier date, launch of the second crew was advanced three weeks.1

The launch on 28 July 1973 was without incident, but the crew encountered serious problems in space. All three men suffered from motion sickness to the extent that they fell significantly behind schedule. Several mechanical difficulties also threatened to cut the mission short, but all were resolved. In the end, the second crew, determined to make up for a slow start, became overachievers.

 

MOTION SICKNESS

 

While adjusting to weightlessness, a number of astronauts had been afflicted by motion sickness. Although the 19 Americans who had flown in Mercury and Gemini had been immune to the poorly understood malady, almost half the Soviet cosmonauts, flying in the slightly larger Vostok and Voskhod spacecraft, had suffered from it. With the start of Apollo, the Americans lost their immunity; 9 of 29 astronauts had motion sickness in that program, with nausea and vomiting persisting in some cases for several days. Because the problem was occurring in the larger vehicles, some doctors believed the increased freedom of movement- particularly head movement-brought on the malady. It had been a pleasant surprise, therefore, when the first Skylab crew remained free from motion sickness. Conrad cautioned against undue optimism during a postflight press conference, predicting that future astronauts could ''experience some form of . . . motion disturbance that may . . . take more than a few seconds to get used to." 2

His warning was borne out less than an hour after launch of the second crew, when pilot Jack Lousma complained of nausea. A capsule...

 


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The second crew photographed Skylab's docking port, 28 July 1973. SL3-114-1660.

The second crew photographed Skylab's docking port, 28 July 1973. SL3-114-1660.

 

....of scopolamine-dextroamphetamine, a medication that blocks the nerve endings to the stomach, provided some relief, and he managed to eat lunch. The illness returned in greater intensity that afternoon as the crew began activating the workshop. By 6:00 p.m. all three men were experiencing motion sickness, Lousma the worst.3

They showed no improvement the next morning; breakfast went half-eaten. At 8:30 a.m. Bean reported, "Although we're moving around getting things done, we're not doing them as rapidly as we'd like to." At lunchtime the crew still had no appetite, and the commander requested a break so that they could "get in the bunk and just stay still for awhile." He also asked Houston to consider giving them the next day off. Mission Control agreed to the mid-afternoon rest, but the crew had to spend most of the time trying to resolve an electrical problem in the spacecraft. That evening the astronauts had fallen nearly a full day behind schedule; NASA officials postponed a planned EVA for at least one day.4

In Houston, the crew's condition touched off a dispute as to the best cure for the illness. Dr. Ashton Graybiel, principal investigator for experiment M131, had found that subjects adjusted to a slowly rotating room more quickly when they made rapid head movements, as compared to remaining still. He wanted the crew to conduct a series of head movements three times a day-30 to 40 per minute for 10 minutes at a time- and warned that the astronauts would not get well by resting. Graybiel had Dr. Berry s support, but a number of Houston officials (most of them from outside the medical office) were openly skeptical. After the second day, Houston asked the crew to continue activation tasks at their own pace and also try the head movements. The astronauts undertook the exercises reluctantly, since movement increased their nausea; on the 30th Garriott [297] worked through the exercises twice and Bean once. Lousma avoided the exercises altogether.5

Although the worst of the illness was over by the third day, activation problems kept the crew behind schedule. Bean blamed much of their trouble on unscheduled tasks. "We seem to end up with about as many new chores ... as old.... We're having difficulty progressing because we're doing other work." That afternoon the astronauts spent five manhours troubleshooting the workshop's dehumidifier and another hour repairing the urine separator. Time was also lost searching for personal items. As Bean remarked, "Everytime you go to do something like get your kit out and shave, you find there are no shaver heads there, and you have to go hunt . . . somewhere." After the flight he would attribute much of the sickness to the first week's hectic pace. "While we were doing activation ... the whole thing was hustle all the time.... Half of the problem we had [in] adapting to motion sickness was caused by the fact we were not eating on time, we were not getting to bed on time, and we were not exercising." For future flights, Bean recommended that meals and rest be given priority over activation requirements, taking a day or two longer if necessary.6

The astronauts felt much better by 1 August; a telecast to Mission Control showed them at lunch, obviously in high spirits. Bean demonstrated his proficiency at eating while hanging upside down and Lousma reported that "the food tasted a lot better." The meal was one of six the crew ate during the day. Since the astronauts had experienced the most discomfort with full stomachs, Houston doctors recommended more, smaller meals. That afternoon Lousma had only mild dizziness doing experiment M131, and Garriott completed the first run on the ergometer and lower-body negative-pressure device. By evening, the medical office had given the green light for EVA on 4 August.7

NASA officials were perplexed by the motion sickness and worried.....

 


Bean on the ergometer breathing into the metabolic analyzer. SL3-110-1399.

Bean on the ergometer breathing into the metabolic analyzer. SL3-110-1399.

 

[298] ....about its impact on future programs. Individual astronauts had fallen ill on previous flights but never an entire crew. Furthermore the astronauts' response did not match previous performance. Bean had flown to the moon without a symptom, and Lousma had shown a strong resistance to motion sickness in ground tests. While the cause of the illness was uncertain, the possible effects were all too clear. As George Low saw it, "Were we to lose three or four days out of each seven-day Space Shuttle flight because of motion sickness, the entire Shuttle effort would be in jeopardy." After the second mission, the prevention of motion sickness became a top priority.8

 

A RESCUE MISSION?

 

The crew's first EVA was delayed again on 2 August by a faulty steering rocket that, for a while, threatened the entire mission. Apollo's reaction control system consisted of four independent sets of rockets spaced 90° apart around the service module. Each set had four thrusters hence the common designation, quad. Astronauts fired the rockets singly or in pairs to stabilize the spacecraft's position in orbit or to change velocity; the thrusters could also return the spacecraft to earth if the main service engine failed. It came as a surprise when quad B developed a leak on launch day-the reaction control rockets had been among Apollo's most reliable systems. Skylab procedures, however, provided for spacecraft operations with one quad shut down.9

Surprise turned to alarm six days later when temperatures in quad D fell below normal limits. The drop triggered a master alarm, alerting Mission Control and waking the crew. At first the malfunction seemed minor, and the problem was not immediately connected with the first....

 


A tense moment in Mission Control Johnson Space Center, 2 August 1973.

A tense moment in Mission Control Johnson Space Center, 2 August 1973. A problem in the Apollo spacecraft threatened to require that the second crew return to earth prematurely. From left: Gary E. Coen, guidance and navigation system flight controller, Howard W. Tindall, Jr., flight operations director, Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., JSC director Sigurd A. Sjoberg, JSC deputy director. S-73-31875.

 

[299] ....day's leak. Crewmen activated heaters in the reaction control system and turned to other duties. During the next hour, Mission Control received positive indications of a second leak: temperature and pressure in quad D dropped sharply and the astronauts reported a stream of sparklers outside their window, similar to the crystals they had seen the first day.10

JSC engineers assumed the worst-that the two leaks represented a generic problem in the oxidizer portion of the reaction control system, possibly contamination of the nitrogen tetroxide. If this were true, the other rockets could soon fail. An oxidizer leak could also damage electrical circuits within the service module. Although quad D had lost less than 10% of its oxidizer, there was no telling how fast the leak might expand. The astronauts could maneuver the spacecraft with two quads, or perhaps even one, but it was a situation to avoid if possible. At midmorning the press was informed of the situation's gravity. Skylab's rescue capability, added three years earlier, suddenly looked like a good investment. According to Glynn Lunney, Houston's spacecraft manager, "if we did not have a rescue capability we would be . . . getting the spacecraft down as rapidly as we could.'' 11

At Kennedy, the news had an electrifying effect. Within three hours preparations for a rescue were under way. By eliminating subsystem tests at the Operations and Checkout Building, the spacecraft could be mated with its Saturn launch vehicle the following week. At the pad, storage lockers could be removed from the command module to make room for additional couches. Foregoing the traditional countdown demonstration test, the Launch Operations Office expected to have a vehicle ready in early September.12

Tensions eased considerably when JSC engineers concluded that the two thrusters did not share a common problem. The possibility of con laminated nitrogen tetroxide was also ruled out after an examination o records at Kennedy. JSC officials believed the two quads were still serviceable; if not, simulator operations indicated that the spacecraft could return safely without them. Kraft notified the crew that EVA would be delayed again, this time so that Mission Control could prepare procedures for reentry with two operational quads. He noted that rescue operations were under way as a matter of prudence, but that "we're proceeding as if we're going to have a nominal mission.'' 13

The leaking thrusters pointed up strengths and weaknesses in the Skylab operation. A subsequent investigation attributed the failure in quad D to loose fittings in the oxidizer lines which had gone undetected during two years of tests. When the crisis struck, NASA officials were n' certain that the crew could deorbit with only one or two operating quad Fortunately, Skylab's rescue capability meant that no decision had to be made immediately, and within a few hours the spacecraft's condition has been correctly assessed. The mission continued.14

 

DEPLOYING THE TWIN-POKE SUNSHADE

 

[300] The astronauts had to go outside the workshop for two tasks. ATM film had to be replaced before making any solar observations, and Marshall's twin-pole sunshade had to be deployed before the parasol's nylon disintegrated under ultraviolet radiation. When to replace the original shade had been a question. Bill Schneider and Rocco Petrone had argued for deployment before the first crew left the workshop, but Kraft did not want to subject Conrad's crew to another major extravehicular activity. Medical considerations won out, and the deployment was put off until the second mission. Marshall's design was chosen rather than an improved parasol because it could be deployed over the first parasol. The workshop would not be uncovered even for a few minutes.15

Marshall engineers felt confident about their deployment procedure. On this EVA, unlike Kerwin's freeing the solar array, the crewmen would have firm footing. Garriott would begin the operation, positioning himself at the work station outside the airlock hatch. There he would connect the 11 sections of pole while Lousma, working from the mount's center station, secured foot restraints and the shade's base plate to the ATM truss. When the two 17.5-meter poles were assembled, Lousma would attach them to the base plate, forming a V. He would then fasten the sail to rope running the length of the poles and slowly hoist the shade. Bean would monitor the operation from the docking adapter. The crew was well prepared. Besides logging more than 100 hours of EVA training, they had deployed the sail in Huntsville's water tank.16

Ample time was scheduled for the operation as one mistake during extravehicular activity could spell disaster. Preparations began on the 5th, the crew reviewing procedures and inventorying hardware. The astronauts spent the morning of the 6th donning their cumbersome suits and testing support systems. Shortly after noon, they depressurized the airlock and opened the hatch.17

The work went slowly at first. A rubber grommet, intended to fit over the locking nut on each section of pole, was catching on the storage rack. It took nearly 20 minutes to remove and connect the first three sections, a pace that threatened to extend the deployment several hours beyond schedule. Then Garriott repositioned himself and was able to remove the rods from a different angle. The delay illustrated the problems that frequently arose during EVA when flight articles varied even slightly from the test model.18

Other difficulties cropped up. The astronauts lost some time trying to untwist the rope before they hit on the idea of separating the pole, passing the line through, and rejoining the pole sections. Lousma ran into further trouble when he began hoisting the shade out along the poles. Folds in the material would not straighten out at once, but with help from the sun's rays, the sail gradually opened. Altogether the deployment ran.....

 


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The twin-pole shield deployed over the parasol.

The twin-pole shield deployed over the parasol.

 

....nearly four hours; despite minor frustrations, the crewmen seemed to enjoy the exercise immensely. They concluded the EVA by exchanging ATM film, retrieving experiment samples, and looking for evidence of several malfunctions, including the problem with the Apollo quads. When Garriott and Lousma finally reentered the airlock, they had spent 6 1/2 hours outside, by far the longest space walk to that time.19

Temperatures in the workshop fell at once. Although the parasol had....

 


Garriott standing on the telescope mount.

Garriott standing on the telescope mount. After helping Lousma deploy the twin-pole sunshade, Garriott attached experiment S149 to one of the solar panels. The experiment was designed to collect dust particles in space and study their impact phenomena. SL3-115-1837.

 

[302] .....met immediate needs, its uneven deployment had left some hot spots. At times of maximum sunlight, such as the last week for Conrad's crew, temperatures reached 28° C. This was acceptable during the workday but uncomfortable for sleeping. With the second shade in place, the inside temperatures approximated those originally intended by thermal engineers. Perhaps more important, the successful deployment strengthened confidence in extravehicular activity. Given sufficient preparation, astronauts could accomplish a wide variety of tasks in space.20

 

SOLAR VIEWING

 

The crew wasted little time getting to work with the solar telescopes. On 7 August, Garriott observed the sun's outer atmosphere, the corona for three hours. Although there was no prominent solar activity, he filled the air-to-ground channel with questions for the principal investigators. The sun grew considerably more active on the 9th when Garriott photographed a medium-sized flare. The following day, astronomers at the Canary Island Observatory detected an even larger solar event. Word was passed up to the astronauts who were enjoying a half-day of rest. (The crew refused to take a full day while they were behind schedule.) Garriott and Bean quickly manned the telescopes and, during the next hour, filmed an enormous eruption of solar radiation. Afterwards, Dr. Ernest Hindler of the High Altitude Observatory described the coronal transient as "a magnificent specimen of this type," one that would come along only two or three times a year.21

Solar observations increased during the next 10 days, reaching a peak of 14 man-hours on the 20th. The hydrogen-alpha telescopes were the principal means to locate solar activity and recognize early stages of flares. Skylab's x-ray and ultraviolet instruments were aligned with the H-alpha telescopes. Thus when an astronaut placed the crosshairs of the H-alpha monitor on a particular activity, he automatically brought the other instruments to bear on the same target. The H-alpha telescopes provided photographs and television, as well as a zoom capability to vary the field of view. A second monitor on the ATM panel presented images from the extreme ultraviolet spectroheliograph. In these wavelengths, some 20 times shorter than the unaided eye could see, the sun appeared blotchy with many bright points, indicating active regions.22

The white light coronagraph, developed at the High Altitude Observatory in Colorado, served as the principal means of studying the corona. Four coaxial disks, located at the front of the telescope, blocked out the bright light, allowing only the faint corona to be seen. Although the coronagraph's wavelengths were visible to the naked eye, the instrument provided a view seldom seen on earth; in effect, the crew enjoyed a solar eclipse every hour of the day. Pictures from the coronagraph were [303] recorded on 35-mm film and could be displayed on a console monitor or transmitted to the ground via television.23

Two weeks of solar viewing culminated on the 21 st with the discovery of a huge solar prominence on the sun's eastern edge. NASA was again alerted by an astronomer working at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's site in the Canary Islands. At JSC, investigators quickly prepared an observing program for the crew. Meantime Bean had discovered the structure, sitting "like a big bubble . . . on the edge of a disk." During the next several hours, solar scientists watched the prominence-nearly three-quarters the size of the sun-arch outward through the corona as a massive loop structure. Investigators were ecstatic, calling it "the most significant [solar] event since the launch." Bean's judicious use of limited film in the white light coronagraph brought the crew praise.24

The second crew's success with the ATM prompted newsmen to contrast the results of the first two missions. At a press conference on 10 August, Hindler acknowledged that operations had improved but credited the change, in part, to Conrad's crew. Their complaints had helped open lines of communication. Investigators enjoyed more access to the second crew, either directly or through the capsule communicator. Consequently, the scientists had "much more rapport with this crew than . . . the last one." Personalities were also a factor; as Hindler noted, "Garriott asks many more questions of us that we respond to."25

 

EARTH-RESOURCE AND COROLLARY EXPERIMENTS

 

For a week after the EVA, the crew was heavily committed to earth-resource observations. Flight planners had bunched the 26 scheduled earth-resource passes at the start and finish of the 58-day mission; during the middle three weeks poor lighting conditions prevailed in the northern hemisphere. Houston usually scheduled one pass a day, the average run lasting about 35 minutes. Another two hours, however, was taken up adjusting camera settings, replacing film, and loading maneuver parameters into Skylab's computer. (Later in the mission, the crew halved this preparation time.) Unlike ATM operations, where one man worked alone most of the time, earth resources was a team effort. Normally Garriott operated the S190B earth-terrain camera through the anti-solar scientific airlock, opposite the parasol. Bean and Lousma took turns handling the viewfinder tracking system for the S191 spectrometer while the other manned controls at the main display console.26

Nine earth-resource passes flown before 13 August met with varying success; the sensors performed satisfactorily, but heavy cloud cover hindered site verification on several runs. The pass on 8 August was typical in its coverage and objectives. Starting off the coast of Oregon, the crew [304] operated the earth-resource cameras for 35 minutes, covering a 13 500-kilometer stretch of land and sea to a point south of Sao Paulo Brazil. Objectives included data on Oklahoma's soil moisture, Utah's mineral formations, Houston's urban growth, and the Amazon's resources. At a briefing on the 15th, coordinator Richard Wilmarth expressed satisfaction with the quantity of data. Newsmen, in turn, questioned the three-week gap in operations and the paucity of sites in the southern hemisphere. Wilmarth indicated that NASA was considering additional runs. i 27

The interruption in earth-resources work gave the crew a chance to do some of the 22 corollary experiments, the catchall title for those relating to space technology, space physics, and stellar astronomy. Bean and Lousma did most of the corollary work, leaving Garriott free to attend the ATM console. Commander and pilot spent the morning of 13 August flying the M509ii maneuvering device, a large backpack that NASA hoped to perfect for EVA. Although Bean was generally impressed with the M509, he wanted more speed and less precise attitude control. He stressed the need "to get something that flies like a spacecraft," to ensure that the astronaut's intuitive response was a correct one. In subsequent sessions, the two men tested a hand-held unit fed from a backpack. Bean found the gas pistol unsatisfactory. He said it felt unnatural and would take "too much training time." A foot-controlled unit was judged unsatisfactory for similar reasons. They spent over 75 man-hours flying or photographing the units in action.28

Most of the time remaining for other corollaries went to Karl Henize's stellar astronomy (S019) and Dr. Donald Packer's airglow photography (S063). Henize had taught at Northwestern University before joining the corps of scientist-astronauts. His experiment employed a reflecting telescope and prism in combination with a 35-mm camera positioned in the workshop's anti-solar airlock. A crewman would first extend a rotating mirror through the airlock and then focus the telescope. When the desired star field was in view, he would take two or three photographs, the exposure time varying from 30 to 270 seconds. Normal operations took less than one hour but required scheduling the camera work during a night phase of Skylab's orbit. Packer's experiment, developed at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, involved camera work from both the wardroom window and the scientific airlock, in reflected light as well as in the dark. His objective was to photograph the earth's ozone layers and the horizon's airglow.29

 


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Bean at the antisolar scientific airlock, operating the ultraviolet stellar astronomy experiment S019, above, SL3-108-1275.

.

Bean at the antisolar scientific airlock, operating the ultraviolet stellar astronomy experiment S019, above, SL3-108-1275. Below, the Instrument withdrawn from the airlock and a diagram. S-71-3508-S.

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Below, the Instrument withdrawn from the airlock and a diagram. S-71-3508-S.

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Below, the Instrument withdrawn from the airlock and a diagram. S-71-3508-S.

 

MORE MECHANICAL PROBLEMS

 

[306] By the second week, mechanical malfunctions had become an unfortunate fact of life for NASA engineers. Skylab seemed to be aging rapidly. The dehumidifier's leak remained a constant annoyance. Though not a serious danger, it required daily servicing. On 20 August, Bean spent the entire day inspecting the system; after adding nitrogen, he checked out each connection, listening with a stethoscope and applying a soap solution, much as one does with a bicycle tire. By day's end engineers had concluded that all pipe connections were in good working order. Suspicions turned to the separator plates within the heat-exchange unit. Minor malfunctions seemed to crop up nearly every day. On 20 August; the mechanism used to extend the mirror for Henize's experiment Jammed midway out the airlock. Attempts to retract the mirror or fully extend it proved futile until the following morning.30

Leaks in the coolant loops were a more serious problem. Two loops cooled the various electronic systems including the controls for the ATM and earth-resources package. On 5 August Huntsville received telemetry indicating a loss of pressure in the primary loop. The signals cast a pall of gloom in George Hardy's office, where engineers already feared a leak ~n the secondary loop. Contingency plans were quickly drawn up to cover a total loss of the cooling system. By the time Hardy briefed newsmen the next day, matters looked much better. Further data indicated that the primary system would run for another three weeks, at least; the secondary loop would probably last the entire mission. Before the final flight, Huntsville hoped to devise a means of replenishing the coolant.31

Erratic gyroscopes were the most troublesome of Skylab's mechanical problems. Huntsville engineers had wrestled with faulty readings from the nine rate gyroscopes since the first launch, three months earlier. From detailed investigation, the gyroscope's high drift rates had been linked with gas bubbles in its float chamber. The bubbles apparently formed when the chamber was exposed to the hard vacuum of space. After correcting the design, Huntsville had prepared a backup package of six rate gyros (promptly dubbed the "six-pack"). It was carried up by the second crew to be mounted, if necessary, on an experiment rack in the docking adapter. The location was close to Skylab's center of gravity allowed for a proper alignment, and provided an easy tie-in with the old system.32

The decision to install the six-pack was a difficult one. Although most of Skylab's nine rate gyroscopes showed some instability, Mission Control had maintained one good gyroscope in each axis, and usually a serviceable backup. Installing the new gyroscope package involved work outside the workshop and failure could possibly end the mission. There was general agreement, however, that a decision should not be delayed beyond the second EVA. Installation on the final EVA, coming just one [307] day before mission's end, would not leave the crew enough time to make adjustments. On 21 August, NASA management opted for the six-pack; the original rate gyroscopes were showing continued deterioration and Houston did not want to face an unmanned period with only one working gyroscope in each axis. The astronauts would install the new gyroscopes on the 24th before replenishing the ATM film magazines. The EVA went like clockwork, and when power was restored, Skylab had nine good rate gyroscopes (the six-pack and three from the original group). For the first time in nearly three months, Skylab engineers could employ the redundancy management procedures originally planned for the mission.33

 

A ROUTINE DAY IN SPACE

 

Sickness and mechanical failures disrupted the flight schedule for 10 days, but after the first EVA, the crew settled into a routine. Reveille came at 6:00 a.m. CST, a loud buzzer waking the astronauts. In the hour before breakfast, they dressed and shaved. There was no real trouble selecting clothes as the astronauts had one standard uniform, brown trousers and turtleneck T-shirts. If too warm, one could convert the trousers to shorts by unzipping the pants legs. During strenuous activity, such as the bicycle run, the astronauts usually stripped to their undershorts. The uniform also included a jacket for the cool temperatures of the airlock and docking adapter. With no provisions for washing the uniforms, they were worn a few days and discarded. The feet proved to be the most difficult part of dressing; astronauts found themselves stretching their stomach muscles as they bent over in zero gravity to put on a sock or tie a shoelace. The clothes received high marks for the most part, although there were some complaints about the shortage of socks and the problem of securing objects inside pockets.34

Skylab's waste-management compartment resembled the bathroom of a commercial jetliner in its size, metallic appearance, and even its gurgling noises. The compartment took some getting used to. For one thing, the floor lacked the triangular gridwork common to the rest of the workshop; engineers had provided a smooth surface for easier cleaning. Consequently, it was difficult to get a foothold, and a member of the third crew would complain that "you just ricochet off the wall like a BB in a tin can." Another problem was maintaining control of various toilet articles, which floated away unless anchored. Bean secured his articles to the cabinet with Velcro, a plastic material with interlocking bristles that enjoyed wide use around the workshop. The lack of gravity precluded a conventional sink; hands could be washed from a valve recessed into the wall. Wet washcloths were the principal means of bathing, since a shower required about an hour. The first crew showered once a week and seemed not to mind vacuuming up the excess water. Later crewmen settled for a [308] daily scrubbing with washcloths. The bathroom's size precluded more than one occupant at a time, a limitation which posed some scheduling difficulties in the first hour. Paul Weitz eased the problem by shaving at night; Carr and Pogue of the third crew eventually quit shaving altogether. Bean s team found sufficient time by extending their preparations into the breakfast hour.35

At 7:00 a.m. the crew assembled around the wardroom table for breakfast. Parallel bars under the food trays served as a chair of sorts, but the astronauts generally preferred to stand. (Sitting placed a strain on the stomach muscles from the forced bending at the waist.) A typical breakfast included bacon and eggs, bread, coffee, and orange juice. While meals were a definite improvement over Apollo, the astronauts complained that their food was too bland and the menu too regimented. Eating in space had other drawbacks, among them the obvious problem of holding things down. When the lid on a warming tray was opened, invariably a can or two would float away. Silverware and food particles showed a similar tendency to wander. All three crews complained about the size of the utensils. Bean, who was probably the least critical of the nine, found their small size ridiculous." Gas bubbles in the water supply were another headache. (The air that had been used to pressurize the water tanks could not float to the surface in a weightless condition, hence the bubbles.) Occasionally, when crewmen rehydrated their food, the bubbly water would burst the clear plastic bags, splattering food around the wardroom. The gas also contributed to flatulence, and as a member of the last crew put it, farting about 500 times a day is not a good way to go." Despite these frustrations, meal times were among the more pleasant hours spent in space. They provided a break from a busy schedule, an opportunity to view the world from the wardroom window or just relax.36

Although the astronauts would have welcomed a leisurely hour for breakfast, activities had to be completed before the workday began: setting up the noon meal, checking out spacecraft systems, loading film collecting and processing urine, weighing fecal samples and leftover food At times, they found themselves behind schedule before the workday began. On a typical day, Garriott would man the ATM console by 8:00 a.m. Bean and Lousma would undertake a medical experiment or a test of maneuvering units. By mid-morning, the crew might change, Lousma moving to the solar telescopes while Garriott returned to the workshop's lower level for his daily ride on the ergometer. Physical exercise had received short shrift during the first two weeks, but after 10 August flight planners began programming 90 minutes a day for exercise and hygiene If there were no major experiments or repair work, Bean could perform a corollary This group provided an excellent means of filling out the workday, since most of them could be done in an hour or two. Solar viewing continued through lunch, the crew eating in shifts. The afternoon [309] brought more experiments. When the astronauts ran out of work, as Bean's crew sometimes did, flight controllers employed a "shopping list of activities-experiments or repairs that crewmen could undertake with short notice.37

Dinner was at 6:00 p.m., after which the crew turned to household chores and a review of the next day's schedule. The latter was time-consuming as it usually involved a number of changes in experiment work, particularly on the ATM. The teletype machine was an improvement over Apollo, when astronauts had copied schedule changes in longhand; but the daily instructions to Skylab often required two meters of teletype. Crewmen had trouble just securing the printout to the wardroom table.38

During an evening pass over a ground station, the crew transmitted a status report including medical data on eating, sleeping, and exercise. Bean's report on 30 August was typical. After providing totals on water consumption, urine, and ergometer exercise, he noted that the crew had averaged between six and seven hours of good sleep. As for their diets, Bean had added 15 salt tablets to his prescribed menu, Garriott "five salts, peach ambrosia, and jam"; and Lousma, the biggest eater aboard, had added "13 1/2 salts, one cherry drink, one can butter cookies, and substituted one veal and two lemonades for one tuna and bread." Each evening the crew also held a private medical conference with the flight surgeon. The conferences confirmed what was apparent from the status reports; after the initial illness the second crew was adjusting to space quite well.39

Planners had hoped the crew would complete the evening chores by 8:00 p.m., leaving two hours for relaxation; but the second crew seldom spent an evening that way. Bean, Garriott, and Lousma virtually ignored the distinction between workday and off-duty activities. Although the first crew had made a point of eating together, the second declined such luxury. One man remained at the ATM console, another reviewed the next day's instructions, and the third grabbed a bite to eat. Dinner usually became a late night snack, eaten 30 minutes before bedtime. If there was not enough time in the day, physical exercise waited until evening. The final solution, and one frequently taken, was to postpone sleep by an hour or two.40

If most days were all work and no play, it did not make Jack a dull boy. Lousma kept up a constant banter for his "space fans" on the channel B tape, commenting on everything from the airlock s lack of space to Garriott's tonsorial talents. At every chance he put in a plug for the Marine Corps. Some of Lousma's clowning was captured on film, including an amusing routine with "barbells" in space: after straining mightily to lift the weights from the floor, he soared into space, the bells high over his head. Lousma proved adept on both sides of the camera; his tours of [310] the workshop filmed in early September give an excellent picture of life in space.41

Science demonstrations provided Garriott a diversion from the daily grind. Before launch he had planned a series of demonstrations on his weekly holiday. Though most holidays were skipped, Garriott found time to illustrate the effect of weightlessness on water drops, magnets, and spinning objects. In the best tradition of science, one of his most successful demonstrations was a sudden inspiration. While working with a nut and bolt on a student experiment, he decided to spin the nut in space and attract it with a magnet. The result was an impressive display of a spinning object precessed by a magnetic torque. Garriott's demonstrations, though far less important than solar viewing or earth resources, could be easily understood by laymen and for that reason brought Skylab much inexpensive publicity.42

Bean appeared to have little need for diversion. The most industrious member of a work-oriented crew, he seldom even took time to look out the window. His chief delight seemed to be adding experiment hours to the record.

 

A TEAM OF OVERACHIEVERS

 

The crew had run behind schedule for the first 10 days. After the EVA on 6 August, Bean asked Mission Control how far they had fallen behind. Houston's response bolstered the astronauts' resolve to catch up; as Lousma recalled, "we decided that we weren't going home without doing 100% . . . and more if possible." The turnaround during the next two weeks was striking. Whereas Houston had previously given the crew more than it could handle, flight controllers were soon hard pressed to find enough work. On 12 August Bean asked for more tasks, noting that "we're working less hard at the moment than we were prior to flight." He gently admonished Mission Control to "do a little bit more," because "we've got the ability, and time, and energy and I know y'all do down there." Mission Control did its best to oblige the commander, increasing the daily workload-the time spent on experiments or repair activities- from 8 to 12 hours per man during the third week. By mission's end, the crew had surpassed its experiment goals by 50%.43

In early September Bean sought to have their mission extended a week or more beyond the 59-day goal. The request was turned down; Houston's medical office wanted more data before committing astronauts beyond two months. The decision also took into account the dwindling supply of food and film aboard the workshop. By mid-September flight controllers had reduced ATM work to 8 hours a day. The resumption of earth-resource passes filled some gaps, but Mission Control was hard pressed to occupy the crew's time. At a postflight briefing, Bean [311] complained about the lack of meaningful work. "We had good scientific experiments, but . . . not enough to fill the time available." His solution was not to reduce the 70-hour workweek; Skylab represented too large an investment for that. Rather, he proposed adding new experiments. Garriott seconded Bean's position, urging the last crew to take more ATM film. The recommendations, and more importantly the pace set by the second crew, convinced flight controllers that a 12-hour day was reasonable. Flight plans for the final mission, fleshed out with new experiments, reflected such standards. The third crew would find it a tough act to follow.44


i The drought-stricken region of Mali and Mauritania was added to the schedule in late August.

ii App. D contains additional information on all the experiments.


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