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Flown "Skylab Weather Briefing Chart": Skylab 1 1972

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  • Author: Skylab 1
  • Date: 1972
  • Condition: Very Good Plus
  • Inches: 38 x 13.75 [Image]
  • Centimeters: 96.5 x 34.9 [Image]
  • Product ID: 307013

Full Title: "Skylab Weather Briefing Chart"


First Edition, First Manned Skylab Mission Flown World Map with Holographic Weather Notations

World map on Mercator projection, scale 1:40,000,000, centered on Kennedy Space center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA.  This weather chart was used by astronaut Paul J. Weitz, Skylab 1 Pilot, SL-2 (first manned Skylab) Mission. Below is an excerpt from the signed inscription from him that accompanies this chart, offering rock-solid provenance:

A standard activity prior to any U.S. manned launch is to provide the flight crew with a world weather briefing. A launch abort, off course flight path, or early reentry could place the crew almost anywhere on the planet. We were given our briefing from this chart and carried it with us in case any flight mishap required its use. The map details all major weather fronts for our launch day as well as high/low pressure regions and rain shower areas.

Map heavily annotated with pre-launch global weather patterns and oceanic conditions.  Shows forecast for 1300 GMT May 25, 1973, the planned launch day, date, and time for Skylab 1’s inaugural flight to the world’s first manned space station.

Skylab spent six years orbiting Earth until its decaying orbit caused it to re-enter the atmosphere. It scattered debris over the Indian Ocean and sparsely settled areas of Western Australia.  Three successive three-man crews lived on board the station for 28, 56 and 84 days in orbit — an American record that stood until the shuttle era. Astronauts aboard the station conducted 270 experiments in biomedical and life sciences, solar astronomy, Earth observations and materials processing. Among the most important were investigations on the astronauts' physiological responses to long-duration space flight.

Various NASA centers had kicked around ideas for a space station for years before Skylab launched. However, the agency was very focused on the space race and moonshots that dominated public consciousness in the 1960s.  As early as the mid-60’s, NASA began planning an Apollo Applications Program to fly unused hardware from the moon program. One idea, proposed by famous Apollo rocket engineer Wernher von Braun, would be to build a space station out of an unused rocket stage. The design evolved over the years as NASA struggled with reduced funding.

Skylab consisted of four major components: the Orbital Workshop (OWS), the Airlock Module (AM), the Multiple Docking Adapter (MDA) and the Apollo Telescope Mount (ATM). The Apollo command and service module that transported crews to Skylab remained attached to the station throughout a crew's occupancy.  The OWS, which served as the main working, living and sleeping compartment for the crews, was converted from the upper stage of a Saturn rocket. It contained exercise equipment, a galley, and many of the scientific experiments, in particular for the life sciences studies. Two large solar arrays on the OWS provided 12.4 kilowatts of power to the station.

The AM enabled astronauts to conduct spacewalks, and the MDA included a prime and backup docking port for the Apollo spacecraft. The second docking port enabled a rescue capability. A second Apollo capsule carrying two astronauts could come to the aid of the resident crew if their spacecraft became disabled, and all five astronauts returning to Earth in the new spacecraft. The MDA also housed the Earth Resources Experiment Package. The ATM contained telescopes for solar observations and four solar arrays for additional power. Once in orbit, the station weighed 170,000 lbs., by far the heaviest spacecraft to date.

Skylab launched for space on May 14, 1973. However, a micrometeoroid shield, which was supposed to shelter Skylab from debris and also act as a thermal blanket, accidentally opened about 63 seconds into the launch. The shield and a solar array tore off, and another solar array was damaged. "When the meteoroid shield ripped loose, it disturbed the mounting of workshop solar array wing No. 2 and caused it to partially deploy," NASA wrote. "The exhaust plume of the second stage retro-rockets impacted the partially deployed solar array and literally blew it into space."

The space station experienced communications problems with the antenna as a result of the incident, but that was the least of NASA's worries. Without the protection from the micrometeoroid shield, temperatures inside the station rose to intolerable levels. Also, the remaining solar arrays were only generating 25 watts of power, according to NASA. Flight controllers faced a dilemma. If they oriented the station toward the sun to maximize power generation, temperatures rose too high for the crew and equipment. But an attitude that minimized the heat significantly reduced power generation.

Meanwhile, the launch of the first crew — Commander Charles "Pete" Conrad, pilot Paul J. Weitz and science pilot Joseph P. Kerwin — was delayed as the astronauts began training for the new mission to make the station habitable. Launching 10 days later, on May 25, the crew's first challenge, just hours after launch, was to attempt to deploy the solar array during a spacewalk. However, initial attempts met with no luck as a metal strip holding it down refused to give way.

Crewmembers emerged from an expected communications blackout in a foul mood, according to an official NASA account of the mission. "The astronauts were venting their frustration with four-letter words, while Houston repeatedly tried to remind them that communication had resumed," NASA wrote.

 Realizing the tools they had with them that day would not work, Conrad abandoned the exercise and focused on trying to dock his spacecraft with the station. Unfortunately, the docking mechanism failed and the crew had to depressurize the spacecraft and bypass electrical connections to achieve it.  In subsequent days, Conrad's crew erected a sun shade, successfully deployed the stuck array, and began operational work aboard the station. While the incident was frustrating for the teams involved, it also demonstrated that it was possible to fix a badly damaged space station while it is in orbit.

Some contend the International Space Station’s success is directly attributable to the pioneering members of the Skylab missions.

Rarity:  Flown weather charts from Skylab missions are incredibly rare.  We are not aware of any others appearing on the market.

Reference:  https://www.space.com/19607-skylab.html

Condition:  Old folds, slight curling at corners.  Excellent.

From the personal collection of Paul Weitz and accompanied by a signed letter of provenance, and a color glossy 9.5 x 7.25 of Pilot Weitz holding this Skylab mission chart.  As commander of the first manned Skylab mission, Weitz spent 28 days on America's first space station; during this time,  Weitz and team installed a solar shield "parasol" from scientific airlock, released solar array wing on EVA, and doubled the previous length of time in space, all while conducting numerous experiments.  Carried aboard the Saturn rocket that lifted the team and inside the Skylab space station, this map made 404 Earth orbits and traveled 11.5 million miles—an amazing flown piece with rock-solid provenance.