Even though Southern California wasn’t in the path of totality during this week’s eclipse, judging by Instagram and Twitter, quite a few of us headed outdoors anyway to take in the sight.
Fittingly, of course, PBS SoCal aired some pretty awesome space-themed programming, including a NOVA special on the eclipse, and The Farthest a documentary about Voyager 2. It probably won’t surprise regular PBS viewers (especially those of you who’ve been with us for a while) to learn that this is not our first foray into space programming!
This week, as a part of our 45th anniversary retrospective, we dug up a 43-year-old article from our 1974 viewer’s guides. We learned that on May 1, 1974, KOCE broadcast Skylab 4: The Final Manned Mission.
Skylab 4, for the uninitiated (your humble writer included), was (ironically) NASA’s third Skylab mission. The Commander of the mission, Lt. Col Gerald Carr, was from Santa Ana, and was the featured subject of the special.
According to our viewer’s guide:
While circling the earth at an altitude of 270 miles, the astronauts performed 58 technical and scientific experiments. Biomedicine, astronomy, solar physics and engineering were the areas in which their studies were concentrated.
Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Exactly the kind of stuff you’d expect was happening on a NASA mission.
And it is, except this mission was known for something else – a distinction all its own: the crew is the only one to have staged a strike in space.
It seems NASA didn’t schedule any breaks for the three-person team. The plan was, in fact, for all three astronauts to work 16 hours a day, every day, for 84 days.
According to the LA Times:
A couple of days after Christmas, Carr wired a manifesto earthward: ‘We need more time to rest. We need a schedule that is not so packed. We don’t want to exercise after a meal. We need to get things under control.’
NASA responded with something akin to: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (maybe less smiley).
And so, on December 28, 1973, Carr cut the radio link and the Skylab 4 crew spent the day chillin’.
It seems NASA got the message. When the crew went back online, NASA agreed to meal and rest breaks, and nixed the micro-managed daily agendas in favor of task lists.
Gerald Carr is now 84 years old and has earned many titles and honors: Col, USMC, Ret.; engineer — both mechanical and aeronautical; naval aviator, astronaut, but perhaps his most interesting role was the brief but effective time he served as a labor rights activist.
Even now, in 2017, we’re proud of our 1974 KOCE counterparts for broadcasting an interview with the only astronaut to have led a strike, or as some call it, a mutiny, in space.