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94/254/1 Space debris and soil in jar, fragment from Skylab space station, titanium / fibreglass / soil / plastic, made by McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Co, United States of America, 1970-1972, landed in Western Australia, 1979. Click to enlarge.

Space debris fragment from Skylab space station

Made
This is a piece of space debris from the oxygen tank of the Skylab space station. Launched in 1973, Skylab was the first United States space station and the largest such facility built at the time. It was as large as a three-bedroom house and its crew of three were housed there in 1973-1974. A number of space endurance records were made at the time.

In the early hours of 12 July 1979 Skylab, re-entered the earth's atmosphere and broke up scattering debris across the southern Indian Ocean and the south-eastern part of Western Australia. Although the heaviest fragments of the station fell into the Indian Ocean, a large amount of Skylab debris fell in a swath from the coastal town of Esperance to the Nullarbor Plain, beyond the community of Balladonia. One of the pieces that landed on the Nullarbor was a large cylindrical oxygen tank that burst on striking the ground, breaking into two fragments which bounced in different directions. The largest fragment, the main body of the tank, ultimately found its way into the special Skylab collection of the Esperance Museum. The smaller piece, the end cap of the oxygen tank, remained undiscovered until the early 1990s when it was found by a stockman.

The circular lid had landed with its insulated exterior to the ground, so that its curved shape formed a shallow dish that caught rainwater, turning it into a very unusual drinking bowl for the cattle and native animals of the area. In fact, it was seeing animals drinking at a place where there should have been no water available that led to its discovery.

The piece comprises the end cap of the tank which was torn and bent as a result of being ripped away from the rest of the tank. Its exterior is covered by a composite insulation material with a woven fibreglass outer surface.

Skylab was the first large space object to make an uncontrolled re-entry, causing public recognition that space debris was a major international hazard.

Summary

Object No.

94/254/1

Object Statement

Space debris and soil in jar, fragment from Skylab space station, titanium / fibreglass / soil / plastic, made by McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Co, United States of America, 1970-1972, landed in Western Australia, 1979

Physical Description

Space debris, Skylab space station, titanium/fibreglass, McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Co, USA, 1970-1972. The fragment is the end cap from pressurised oxygen tank from the Skylab space station. Originally the end of an enclosed cylinder, the titanium tank structure is torn and bent as a result of the stresses that ripped it away from the rest of the vessel. The exterior is covered by a composite insulation material with a woven fibreglass outer surface. A circular lid, protruding above the external insulation, covers an access hatch to the tank. A black and red wire, possibly originally connected to an external power source or sensor, is attached to the lid.

Dimensions

Height

810 mm

Width

1120 mm

Depth

900 mm

Weight

140 kg

Production

Source

Credit Line

Purchased 1994

Acquisition Date

5 December 1994

Cite this Object

Harvard

Space debris fragment from Skylab space station 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 26 November 2020, <https://ma.as/141107>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/141107 |title=Space debris fragment from Skylab space station |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=26 November 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}