Skylab IV Splashed Down on This Day: Five Things the Most Complaining Space Crew Ever Bitched About

Categories: NASA

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Skylab IV: Not happy campers
Skylab IV splashed down on this day in 1974, ending the last mission to America's first space station.

They were glad to get home.

The crew of Skylab IV -- William Pogue, Gerald Carr and Edward Gibson -- became famous for the sheer amount of complaining they did.

Arguments with NASA over the amount of work they were assigned became so bad that the crew staged a one-day strike.

Among the things they complained about during the 84-day mission:

5. Fashion
In Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo, author Nicholas de Monchaux quotes a Skylab IV crew member on what they were forced to wear.


"I just get tired of this damn brown!" Skylab IV scientist Edward Gibson lamented...about his own clothing, supplied only in a yellowish-brown fireproof polyester. Skylab IV mission pilot William Pogue judged that using them was "sort of like drying off with padded steel wool."

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The brown!! Good God, the brown!!
4. The workload
The Skylab IV astronauts staged an actual strike in space, a mini-mutiny over how much work they were being given. They famously turned their ground communications off and did whatever they wanted.

Skylab IV was crewed by three rookies, and that was a bad move, says the author of Fundamentals of Space Medicine, Gilles Clement.

"All the astronauts of Skylab-4 were first-time flyers (rookies). Before they got adjusted, Mission Control transferred to them the same busy schedule as their predecessors in the space station," Clement writes. He says NASA mandated at least one veteran per crew on all ensuing missions.

The Skylab IV astronauts not only bitched about the amount of work, but the nature of it. Commander Gerald Carr testified to Congress: "If [an astronaut] is nothing but a switch-twiddler working against a clock, he is going to become very bored, and he is going to have psychological problems."

3. Feeling less than fresh
Eventually the complaints built up and the crew had a come-to-Jesus meeting with ground control. Talking with capcom Richard Truly, there was a complaint about working out. Again from the official history:

Turning to specific scheduling problems, Truly spoke of physical exercise, which Carr felt strongly about. Truly pointed out that the 90 minutes set aside for exercise caused serious scheduling difficulty. The only solution the planners had found was to break it up into two 45-minute sessions. Carr interrupted to give his side of the question: he wanted time to cool down and clean up after a workout on the ergometer because he despised rushing off to some other job feeling grimy and hot. Doing that twice a day was more than he could take.

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3 comments
TK
TK

WTF?  Slacker astronauts?  Should have sent three apes up there instead.

Terrycart
Terrycart

I just agree with you the best part of your comment, the first three letters.

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