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
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
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
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!"