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Owen Garriott

Dr. Garriott spoke without any notes. He was very animated and had some engaging, off-the-cuff remarks:

Robert took us back to 1967, I believe was the date. I'll make it a little easier on some of your memories and only go back as far as 1973. [laughter]

My guess is that some of you will indeed remember the magic date, from my perspective, of May 14 of 1973. That was the date on which this vehicle performed its last major function in carrying machinery into space. That was the date when the Skylab itself was launched from Cape Kennedy. I was there to watch this beautiful launch. It was on a beautiful day, no rain, and we were all so pleased.

I remember coming back from watching that launch on May 14 to get ready to pack up, hop on a T-38, and fly back to the Johnson Space Center to get started on the activities that fit into what was supposed to be the nation's first space station.

As I walked back with Jack Lousma, we noticed on the walkway, right around our motel, a fellow whom I sure many of you know, Rocco Petrone, who recently passed away. Rocco said, "Don't leave too enthused for a little while. We have a 'funny' that we couldn't see from the ground." Some of you may remember that, indeed, there was a "funny" on the third portion, not a part of the Saturn itself, but the third stage, which was normally filled with propellant, but in this case was Skylab itself. The micrometeoroid shield had been torn away and dropped into the ocean. One of solar arrays had been torn away. And it caused all sorts of consternation and very serious activities to follow.

In my own view, the next ten days was NASA's finest hour. In those ten days, NASA did more work and accomplished more creative activity than it ever had in its entire history. They not only took a very modest amount of telemetry and deciphered what had gone wrong, they managed to figure out a new way to control the attitude. They figured out solutions to the problem. They implemented those at several NASA centers all around the country: Johnson, Marshall, and other places. They implemented those solutions, tested them all out, put them into the command module, and flew the first manned flight only ten days later. Unbelievable! And, really, when you imagine the number of people, both NASA employees as well as contractors, working 24 hours a day, which they were for ten days straight, to pull that off, in my mind, that was NASA's finest hour. Well, I was very pleased to have a part in that!

I can tell you a little bit in just a few moments about what it might be like to ride in either a Saturn V or a Saturn I, and also the space shuttle. There are a few people who do have experience on both vehicles, and I can tell you a little bit about what that might be like. [Astronaut Jack Lousma, who flew on with Garriott on SL-3, the second manned Skylab mission, discusses this topic in this YouTube video.]

From the Apollo 11 flight which has been referred to, and I think we'll see in a few more moments a visual and audio remembrance of the Apollo 11 mission, the crew members were launched into earth orbit with the Saturn V and carried off throughout the mission as we'll hear about a little bit later. I don't think I can quite match that kind of story, we're a little bit further away than what we'll hear about in a few more minutes, but it really is a phenomenal experience.

I should tell you a little bit of a comparison. I'm often asked, "How would you compare a ride on a Saturn with a ride on the space shuttle." And perhaps it's a bit of a ... not a let-down, exactly, but a different perspective than most have when I say that it's not all that different. But, all the way back to the beginning of the space program, with a Saturn I, a Saturn V, a space shuttle that you launch with, and basically when you're sitting inside, and it may be because your minds on a lot of other things at the moment, the vibration that you have for the first two minutes, let's say, is really substantial. You're in the atmosphere. The very large engines beneath your feet (or at your back) are vibrating, and you feel that very strongly. However, after about two minutes, it all gets much more smooth because you're above most of the atmosphere. It could be that the first stage has fallen away not too long after about two minutes, and it gets very smooth and quiet. And you feel a little more solidly crushed against the back of your seat as the acceleration picks up, from just over the normal 1G at launch to maybe three or four Gs as you get closer to orbit. And, of course, you're all eyes and ears and mind, thinking about your job at that point. Even though there's not a lot to do, you're very careful to observe everything you can to make sure that if anything happens you know about it immediately and you can take the appropriate action. So it's not that you're so busy, not that you've got so much to do, but that you're focused on watching and monitoring everything that might go wrong. And if you're very fortunate, as I have been, you get into orbit in a little over eight minutes and then all of a sudden you're thrust forward into your seat when the acceleration disappears and you're right up against your straps and you realize now that perhaps the most dangerous part of the mission is behind you, the launch is complete, and you can get on with the tasks that you have ahead of you.

Well, that's something like what it is to be launched on either a Saturn or on a space shuttle and it's an experience that I think everyone has enjoyed, and once they're there, then the opportunity to really get some productive work done while you're in space, is opened up to you, a whole new vista, and it's really the purpose for all of the preceding work that's gone on just to get to space and do the kinds of things that you had intended to do.

Well, perhaps that's enough. We ought to get along a little bit with the show. And the thing that I would like to do a this point is to remind you that, with the rain subsiding, it is now time to "rocket roll!"

Owen Garriott
Time picture taken Tue Jul 10 09:57:54 2007
File name dsc37423.jpg
Location picture taken Rocket Park
US Space & Rocket Center
Huntsville, AL
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