Celebrating 40 Years Since Launch of America’s First Space Station

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - It's been 40 years since nine men bravely chose to live aboard Skylab, the United States' first space station

Thursday, astronauts Paul Weitz, Joseph Kerwin, Alan Bean, Jack Lousma, Own Garriott, Gerald Carr, William Pogue, and Edward Gibson returned to Huntsville, where the project was first conceptualized by Wernher Von Braun.

"You look back on it and of course you're enthused, but the same time I just felt lucky to be there at the right time," said Edward Gibson, a science pilot on the last manned Skylab mission.

Skylab was launched in 1973 and orbited the Earth until 1979. Three manned missions were launched in the first year, each manned by three-person teams.

In the 171 days the astronauts lived in space , they conducted 10 spacewalks, logged hours of scientific and medical experiments, and led the way for further breakthroughs in space exploration.

 "I'm very proud the work we did on Skylab that eventually led to the development of the International Space Station and helped us learn to do space walks where we repaired the Hubble space telescope and a number of other things that wouldn't be possible w/out the groundwork that was laid with Skylab," said Bob Crippen, a retired astronaut who worked on the development of Skylab.

As part of the celebration, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center is now the home to a refurbished training module, used during the Skylab missions.

You can see the training module in the Davidson Center for Space Exploration.