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This Day in History, 1979: Skylab Crashes to Earth

Twenty-six years ago today, parts of Skylab, America's first space station, came crashing down on Australia and into the Indian Ocean five years after the last manned Skylab mission ended. No one was injured.

I remember this little piece of history, although I was only nine years old. I knew that Skylab was an American space station, and I remember that the news that summer was filled with reports of its demise. There was also a lot of worried speculation about where it would crash, and how much damage it might do, although NASA engineers tried to reassure the world that most of it would burn up in the atmosphere. Fortunately, for the most part it turned out they were right; the only effect of the crash was apparently a spectacular light show. That didn't stop one band, however, that released a song about the impending doom coming from the sky.


I remember some kids in school wearing helmets, but I don't think I ever knew quite how serious they were, and to whatever extent I did know I've forgotten. I don't think I was afraid, myself. The odds of being hit seemed really low.
Dang. I remember waiting for the schoolbus singing "Skylab is falling" to the tune of "Xmas is coming" but I can't remember the rest of the lyrics. "If you haven't got an umbrella then Gd bless you."
I was on an archaeological dig in a small town in Southern Illinois at the time and kept trying to find out what was happening. All I had was a transistor radio that wasn't very good, especially where we were. The Saint Louis paper would arrive at random times, so I couldn't rely on it for information.

Later, I was able to see the recovered remains of Skylab at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

December 2016

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