A Moment in Air Force History

What was the first space station in orbit?

A. Salyut I
B. Sky Lab
C. Mir

Answer: A. On April 19, 1971, Salyut I became the first space station put in orbit. The Soviets launched it from Baikonur Cosmodrome using a three-stage Proton launch vehicle. It completed 362 orbits before deorbiting and burning up on reentry over the Pacific Ocean on Oct. 16. Its purpose was to study the effects of long-term space flight, and to photograph the earth. Soyuz 10 brought the first crew to the station on April 24, but they could not open the hatch to Salyut I and the mission was canceled. The crew almost died on reentry when their oxygen supply became toxic. On June 7, Soyuz 11 brought a replacement crew to the station. They inhabited the station for 24 days.

Did You Know? On May 14, 1973, NASA launched Sky Lab into orbit. Astronauts conducted 300 experiments over 171 days and 13 hours of habitation. On July 11, 1979, it reentered earth orbit and burned up over the Indian ocean and western Australia. The Soviets launched Mir into orbit on Feb. 23, 1986. There were 46 missions to the station. Cosmonaut Polykov holds the record for longest stay in orbit, 438 days. The Mir deorbited on March 23, 2001, and burned up over the Pacific ocean.

(Courtesy of 435th Air Base Wing and 86th Airlift Wing History offices)