Launch of the Skylab space station atop a modified Saturn V launch vehicle on May 14, 1973
The space station was primarily powered by arrays of solar panels extending from the Orbital Workshop and Telescope Mount
Launch of Skylab 2, the first manned Skylab mission, on May 25, 1973
Mission Control Center at the Johnson Space Center in Houston
Demonstration of the collapsible parasol followed by its deployment in space
Intravehicular activity in the Orbital Workshop
Science Pilot Joseph Kerwin gives Commander Pete Conrad a shot
Pilot Paul Weitz prepares a meal
Conrad and Kerwin go for a space walk in an attempt to free the jammed solar panel. The sudden deployment of the array caused both astronauts to be flung from the Skylab hull, testing the strength of their safety tethers.
Playing in zero gravity
Conrad and Weitz get dressed for extravehicular activity before they make further exterior repairs to the Skylab space station
Produced by the Houston-based A-V Corporation for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, this silent government film chronicles the Skylab 2 mission. (Orbiting earth from 1973 to 1979, Skylab was the United States' first space station.) The unmanned Skylab space station experienced considerable damage during its launch on May 14, 1973. The micro meteoroid shield separated from the Orbital Workshop, taking one of the solar panel arrays with it and jamming the other so that it could not deploy. As a result, the space station was deprived of most of its electrical power. It also baked in the Sun, with rising temperatures inside the workshop releasing toxic materials into the station's atmosphere. NASA subsequently postponed the launch of Skylab 2, the first manned mission, from May 15 to May 25 in order to develop procedures that would make the workshop habitable. The primary objective for the Skylab 2 flight crew—composed of Commander Pete Conrad, Science Pilot Joseph Kerwin, and Pilot Paul Weitz—thus became to make repairs to the space station. The crew first deployed a collapsible parasol through the Skylab airlock to act as a sunshade. The shield effectively cooled temperatures inside the station, allowing the workshop to become fully operational by June 4. Three days later, Conrad and Kerwin exited the spacecraft to free the stuck solar panel. The mission lasted a total of 28 days, doubling the previous duration of human spaceflight, with the flight crew splashing down in the Pacific Ocean on June 22.
As the scope of the American space program grew, NASA's Space Task Group realized it would need to expand into its own facility if it were to successfully land a man on the Moon. In 1961, the agency's selection team chose a 1,000-acre cow pasture in Houston, Texas, as the proposed center's location site, owing to its access to water transport and commercial jet service, moderate climate, and proximity to Rice University. In September 1963, the facility opened as the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC).
The Center became the focal point of NASA's manned spaceflight program, developing spacecraft for Projects Gemini and Apollo, selecting and training astronauts, and operating the Lunar Receiving Laboratory. Beginning with Gemini 4 in June 1965, MSC's Mission Control Center also took over flight control duties from the Mercury Control Center at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. As a result, the facility managed all subsequent manned space missions, including those related to Projects Gemini and Apollo, the Apollo Applications Program, the Space Shuttle Orbiters, and the International Space Station.
In 1973, the MSC was renamed in honor of the late President and Texas native Lyndon B. Johnson. (As Senate Majority Leader, Johnson sponsored the 1958 legislation that established NASA.) The Center continues to lead NASA's efforts in space exploration, training both American and international astronauts, managing missions to and from the International Space Station, and operating scientific and medical research programs.