The Skylab 4 Mutiny: A Strike In Outer Space

Brilliance | Dec. 08, 2017

Skylab 4 was the third and final mission of NASA's short-lived Skylab program. For good reason: in December of 1973, the crew of Skylab 4 staged a day-long mutiny.

Why It's Relevant

We've all been there: your bosses are hounding you to do more and more work, and even though you skip lunch and breaks, you can't seem to finish it all. Imagine that same situation, but in outer space—a place where you can never go home, much less quit your job. That's what the crew of Skylab 4 was up against.

Why It's Amazing

After launching in November of 1973, the three-man crew was assigned more than 6,000 hours of work over an 84-day mission, including unloading and stowing thousands of scientific and medical items, performing observations, and going on spacewalks. The trio soon found that this was an unmanageable workload, and fell behind on their tasks. They complained to Mission Control that they were being pushed too hard, but officials on the ground disagreed. After all, NASA pointed out, Skylab 2 and 3 had finished everything on time—though NASA may have failed to realize that those two missions were commanded by experienced Apollo astronauts, and none of the Skylab 4 crew had ever been to space. NASA wanted to get its money's worth, and suggested that the trio skip meal times and work through their rest days to catch up on their assigned tasks.

So six weeks into the mission, the crew mutinied. They turned off their communications radio and took an unscheduled day off, which they allegedly spent relaxing and observing the Earth. When they came back online, Mission Control was ready to reach a compromise: the crew could do routine chores when they had time, and they'd be left alone at meal times and rest periods. Of course, they didn't get this reduced workload for nothing: none of the three astronauts ever flew again.

Editors' Picks: Our Favorite Videos About The Skylab Program

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