The infamous “mutiny” on the Skylab space station didn’t go down like you’ve probably heard, with astronauts halting communications and striking for a full day to protest working conditions. Instead, it was more like a “kerfuffle” caused by a simple mistake, which eventually led to a lot of good.

Read the Story

Show Top Comments

I have a misconception related to this: “The Skylab 4 mutiny was due to an inexperienced rookie crew.” Due to the mutiny, none of the crew from Skylab 4 ever flew again, despite all modern observers (and NASA’s own investigation at the time) concluding it was wholly NASA management’s fault. A later investigation, and a LOCV, was required before NASA’s politically appointed management was overhauled After adjustments to schedule, the Skylab 4 worked harder, better and acheived more than any previous crew, including those manned by veteran astronauts who had walked on the Moon. In Apollo 8 and 9, crews had reported space sickness to ground controllers and the affected individuals were removed from all future spaceflight. This made them somewhat hesitant to do so. The schedule aboard Skylab had very little “downtime” and the crew was working 16 hour days – They were expected to sleep 8 hours, then work the rest with mere short breaks for food. The crew rapidly found themselves tired, behind schedule and their morale had dropped so low that they hid Pogue’s space sickness from flight surgeons. Previous missions had been commanded by veteran astronauts – Skylab 3 had Al Bean in charge, who had walked on the moon in Apollo 12, and was known to be an imposing figure. After a “clear the air” radio conference, NASA agreed to include downtime in the schedule to allow astronauts to unwind. Workrate rapidly exceeded all expectations, including previous veteran crews, and downtime has been included in all astronaut schedules ever since. Apollo 6 (Edit: Actually Apollo 7, that was a typo) had a similar “mutiny” aboard, and it came down to the Americans treating their crew as robots, resources, not humans. Soviet missions, which had human rituals (e.g. salt and bread as a gesture on ISS and Mir flights), quality of life, real toilets, had much less crew resistance.


I would really recommend “Homesteading in Space” (as mentioned in the article). It’s a book about the Skylab missions, from the initial ideas up to the de-orbiting. It goes through each Skylab mission in amazing detail. Well worth a read, espcially for the (heroic) efforts the first Skylab astronauts put in to fix the space-station. The US didn’t have much experience at space-walking and they managed to make Skylab livable again. It’s also interesting for the really quite basic solution they had for the sun-shade…