Skylab astronaut Bill Pogue has died on 3 March at the age of 84.  Originally selected as an astronaut in 1966, having previously been a pilot in the US Air Force Thunderbirds display team, Pogue made his one and only spaceflight as the Command Module pilot in the crew of the third and last manned mission to visit the U.S. space station Skylab.  That mission which started in November 1973 for a time set the record for the longest manned time in space at 84 days.  The crew returned safely to Earth in 1974 and the space station was abandoned to its eventual re-entry five years later – though there had been hopes that it may have been brought back into service if the Space Shuttle had become operation in time.

Skylab space station. Courtesy: NASA

Skylab space station. Courtesy: NASA

We belatedly note the death in February of Shuttle Astronaut Dale Gardner. After being a former US Navy F-14 aviator, Gardner flew as an astronaut on two Space Shuttle missions:  STS-8, and more famously STS-51A.  On the latter mission  he and fellow spacewalking astronaut Joseph P. Allen managed to recover the Westar VI and Palapa B-2 communications satellites which had been stranded by Perigee Kick Motor failures following their deployment on a previous Shuttle mission.   The hazardous recoveries involved the use of the free flying Manned Manoeuvring Unit. The rescue had been part sponsored by Lloyds of London insurers.

NASA astronaut Dale Gardner approaches Westar VI in Manned Manoeuvring Unit. Courtesy: NASA

NASA astronaut Dale Gardner approaches Westar VI in Manned Manoeuvring Unit. Courtesy: NASA

We are also sad to report the death in February of Valery Kubasov, a three-space mission veteran cosmonaut whose career including the first real international cooperation mission in manned spaceflight: the US-Soviet Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) link up mission in 1975.  On this mission, Soviet cosmonauts had their Soyuz spacecraft docked with a NASA Apollo spacecraft using a special docking system.

ASTP Apollo spacecraft with special docking system which it used to dock with the Soyuz spacecraft. Courtesy: NASA

ASTP Apollo spacecraft with special docking system which it used to dock with the Soyuz spacecraft. Courtesy: NASA