Skylab was Falling! 43 Years Ago Today

On July 12, 1979, Skylab fell back to the earth. Today is the anniversary.

In 1979 I was twelve and heard the news that a space workstation named Skylab was falling to earth. It was exciting for me…I was hoping that a piece of it would fall near so I could touch something that had been flying through space.

That didn’t happen because unless I was Australian I wasn’t going to see any debris. In school, our science teacher went over the event and I do remember people wearing Skylab t-shirts, hats, and buttons. Everyone was looking up hoping to see something…anything. Some kids were scared they were going to get crushed…that is when I learned…what goes up must go down.

Watching the news…there were some people panicking and…some partying. This is from Newsweek in 1979

In various parts of the country, wags painted X’s on their neighbors’ roofs or sported T-shirts with targets on the back. Entrepreneurs sold plastic helmets and Skylab survival kits compete with bags for collecting stray parts of the spacecraft and letters suing NASA for damages. “I don’t know how much we’re making, but we’re having fun,” said Steven Danzig, 25, of Bloomington, Ind., who sold more than 20,000 such kits. In Washington, a bar called Mr. Smith’s sold a concoction dubbed the Chicken Little Special.

Around the U.S., there were Skylab parties to coincide with the crash, and betting pools on precisely when or where the debris would come streaking back to earth.


Skylab was designed to go up but not come back down. It was launched in 1973 and was occupied for almost 24 weeks. There was a lot of time and money spent on how to get it up there but not much time on how to get it down. It only had a 9-year life span, to begin with. In 1979 it was clear that Skylab was rapidly descending orbit.

On July 12, 1979, Skylab came back to earth in the Indian Ocean and in Western Australia. No one was injured by the falling debris.

The San Francisco Examiner offered a $10,000 reward for anyone bringing a part of Skylab to their office. They knew it wasn’t going to hit America so it was a safe bet they would not have to pay…but Stan Thornton…an Australian truck driver heard about the reward, grabbed a piece of debris, and jumped on a plane to San Francisco and got the reward.

stan thornton.jpg
Stan Thornton collecting his $10.000




Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

27 thoughts on “Skylab was Falling! 43 Years Ago Today”

  1. A long time ago, but I think I do remember it and the hype, not the helmets though! From the timing, I think our family was on vacation in florida at the time, so I’m sure we were hearing a lot about it back then! With the number of satellites up there now, soon there should be debris raining down …hold onto those early warning hats.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea we may need to order a few lol. I just remember how we really thought we would see some of it…never considering the odds.


  2. I vaguely remember the fuss, so I looked up my diary and I didn’t mention it! However on this day I seem to have almost been caught out: I was teaching full time and doing a degree in “Ethnomusicology” at university. I had “boasted” to my lecturer that I had a group of students from all over the Pacific and we had a percussion group where each student would play in their own “indigenous way”! This also included flutes and clarinets etc. Of course it didn’t exist. The lecturer was all excited and the next thing the phone went and he had booked a session at a big-time recording studio. On this day I took the students into the studio and said “Just make the thing up!” I no doubt hoped the Skylab would hit. But they were fantastic!!! (Sorry to have monopolized the comments of you blog!)

    Liked by 2 people

  3. While I’ve read about the Skylab frenzy in the U.S., I don’t recall anything whatsoever that happened in Germany around the incident – it’s a safe bet it was on the evening TV news and in the newspaper.

    But helmets, other Skylab merchandise and Skylab parties? Well, I guess it once again goes to show – and no offense here – many folks in America know how to put on a good show and make a buck or two in the process!

    And what a wise man Alan Parsons was. His “What Goes Up” predated Skylab by a year! Although I guess his song (it was really Eric Wolfson who penned it, but it appeared on the Alan Parsons Project “Pyramid” from June 1978) was more about grandiose structures like the pyramids of Egypt!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea it was probably mostly an American thing as far as making a buck off it…and I guess Australia in this case.

      Yep! The song says it all.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That Aussie truck driver deserves a big ’10-4 good buddy’ for high-tailing it to the USA and collecting his 10 grand. Thinking outside the box, Stan.
    And who wouldn’t want to slam down a few ‘Chicken Little Specials?’

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That was me man…I wanted to touch something that was once in space. I would have loved if it would have destroyed our school also.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Badfinger,
    I vaguely remember this happening and wondering if the debris would fall on an urban area.
    Where do you come up with this type of information?
    Regards and goodwill blogging.


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