The John G. Wolbach Library is currently digitizing a collection of film reels taken on board the Skylab space station between 1973 and 1974. The recordings include solar images and mission-specific materials associated with several experiments in solar astronomy. Skylab represents a turning point in 20th century space exploration as a bridge between the earlier Apollo missions and the long-duration residencies on the International Space Station (ISS).
During twenty-four total weeks of occupation between May 1973 and February 1974, Skylab logged more than 2,000 hours on approximately eighty scientific experiments, which included significant achievements in astronomical photography. Prior to Skylab, film was a near impossibility for most unmanned space experiments because physical negatives could rarely be safely returned to Earth. While in orbit, Skylab’s Apollo Telescope Mount, a full-scale astronomical observatory built into the station, made film-captured data a new reality in the science of space exploration. It produced tens of thousands of static images and more than 120,000 frames of film. The collected data was significant to later advances in solar and x-ray astronomy.