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Launched in 1973 aboard the last of the great Saturn V rockets, Skylab was America's first ever space station. 9 astronauts lived here in groups of three at a time for a total of 171 days. It was here that Americans learned how to live in an open workshop environment, a valuable skill needed from transitioning from the cramped Apollo to the more spacious Shuttle. Many experiments were conducted onboard Skylab, including the observation of minnows in zero gravity (they all managed to adapt) and the use of the Apollo Telescope Mount, a converted Lunar Lander reequipped to observe the Sun. But Skylab faced early difficulties. Upon launch part of the heatshield came off the station and one of the two main solar panels never deployed. It was later found that one solar panel was enough to keep the station running, and a improvised heatshield was produced to prevent the craft from heating up.
This miniature Skylab is complete with one main solar array (the other is shown in its undeployed position) and improvised gold foil heatshield. It contains 52 bricks, several of which are warm gold. Although Skylab only ever had one Apollo spacecraft docked to it at a time, the station was intended to have two docked Apollos at a time (in case of an emergency the other one would be used as an emergency escape vehicle).