The last week of the year is usually quieter than the rest of the year. Maybe not this year, but usually.

For the astronauts aboard the Skylab space station in 1973, the end of the year turned out to be a pretty notable time.

Depending on who you talk to it was either a time when the astronauts ironed out some longstanding issues with Mission Control, or it was a full-on space mutiny!


Here’s what everybody agrees on: the fourth space station crew headed up to Skylab with a pretty long to-do list, because the station itself was headed for decommissioning, and was only going to last in orbit for so much longer.

Officially, the schedule included rest and break times, but their work days were long.

And they were also scheduled down to the minute, so any unexpected hiccups meant they would fall behind.

And that’s what happened: one crew member got nauseous at first; at other times, the tools in their specially-designed outfits would jab them if they turned or moved in certain ways.

All the while, they were doing complicated science experiments in space, which takes time.

The crew didn’t feel like Mission Control was understanding or listening to their concerns, and on the ground people grumbled that maybe these astronauts were just grumpy and negative.

Several stories came out later that on this day in 1973, the astronauts took a stand, and shut down their communication with the ground so they could have a vacation.

One astronaut has suggested they weren’t breaking contact, they just forgot to schedule someone to be in touch with Mission Control.

NASA has a whole webpage pushing back on this story, saying that if you look at the logs, the crew actually did a lot of work that day.

Nonetheless, the crew did eventually have a serious talk with the powers that be.

One of the astronauts called it the first “sensitivity session” in space.

In the end, NASA agreed to loosen the schedule a lot.

The astronauts would have more regular work schedules and could choose how and when to do the work.

And, after 84 days in space, the fourth Skylab crew returned to Earth having completed all of their scheduled experiments.

Sometimes talking it out helps, right?

Also: don’t forget to check out the work of Jumpei Mitsui, a Lego artist who just created an all-brick version of Hokusai’s famous print “The Great Wave off Kanagawa.”

A true Lego masterpiece!

The Real Story of the Skylab 4 “Strike” in Space (NASA)

Did Skylab 4’s Astronauts Really Go On Strike? (Atlas Obscura)

Column: The day when three NASA astronauts staged a strike in space (Los Angeles Times)

Japanese LEGO Artist Reimagines Hokusai’s ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’ (Interesting Engineering)

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Skylab photo via NASA