Absolute Awesomeness! Why have I never heard about this before?

January 6, 2008

Random Thoughts

skylabcow I was watching Modern Marvels last night and it was all about Skylab, which was a space station the United States put into space back in the 1970’s. I think it was the second station ever visited by a human crew. I had heard of Skylab before but didn’t really know anything about it. However, last night I heard something about our first space station that absolutely cracked me up. On July 11, 1979, Skylab unexpectedly fell out of Earth’s orbit and killed a cow in Australia! Isn’t that hilarious? When learning this I just imagined this massive ton of space junk laying on some poor cow. What is it with me and all these Australian cow stories this week?

I did a little more research and the comedy continued. According to Wikipedia, Skylab was put in a "parking orbit" following its last mission. The plan was that in 1979, a Space Shuttle would be launched to dock with Skylab and bring it to a higher orbit. However, the Space Shuttle wasn’t ready for operations until 1981. Oops! Plan B. An unmanned satellite called the "teleporter" was to be launched that would save Skylab. Unfortunately, money couldn’t be raised to get it off the ground… literally. It seems that ground crew were able to establish contact and adjust Skylab’s orientation for ideal re-entry. So, in 1971, Skylab took the life of an Aussie cow.

This prompted several questions:

  • My dad (retired military) said that the government had a plan for everything. It seems they had a Plan A and even a Plan B, but what about plan C?
  • Why was Western Australia chosen as the re-entry point? I’m sure it’s more desolate, but if we knew the sucker was coming down, couldn’t they have chosen another time a week or so earlier and brought it down in Montana or something?

To top this all off, I’ll leave you with probably the funniest part. The Shire of Esperance (the region Skylab fell in) actually fined the United States $400 for littering. As of 2004, the bill still hasn’t been paid.



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