NASA HISTORY: After Apollo 17, NASA’s Next Human Mission Was a Space Station

By  //  January 6, 2020

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1973 would see the launch of Skylab, which included three crewed missions

After Apollo 17 in 1972, NASA’s next human spaceflight mission was a space station. (NASA History image)

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – After Apollo 17 in 1972, NASA’s next human spaceflight mission was a space station.

1973 would see the launch of Skylab, which included three crewed missions on long-duration stays in orbit. The longest mission lasted for a then-record shattering 84 days.

A new aspect of the Skylab Crewed Missions were their scientific and educational outreach. One of the most notable of these was the Skylab Student Project, done in partnership with the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) to encourage the next generation of scientists.

The project, announced in October 1971, was a nationwide contest for secondary school students to propose experiments to fly on Skylab.

Over 4,000 students responded with 3,409 proposals by the closing date of the competition. 25 were selected, but only 19 were ultimately flown.

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One such experiment was proposed by high school student Judith Miles of Lexington, Massachusetts, seen above with Keith Demorest and Henry Floyd of the Marshall Space Flight Center.

Judith’s experiment, “Web Formation in Zero Gravity” sought to determine if spiders could spin webs in microgravity.

The experiment was conducted by the second Skylab crew, and the spiders Anita and Arabella (now housed at the Smithsonian) proved that they could spin a web in micro-gravity.

The experiment was conducted by the second Skylab crew, and the spiders Anita and Arabella (now housed at the Smithsonian) proved that they could spin a web in micro-gravity. (NASA History image)

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