This medal flew more than thirty-four million miles in space.Skylab III (SL-4) Flown Silver Robbins Medallion Directly from the Personal Collection of Mission Pilot William Pogue, Serial Number 9F, with Signed LOA. This 37mm x 35mm sterling silver medal with three rounded was one of only seventy flown (of 190 minted) on this record-breaking mission with crewmembers Gerald Carr, William Pogue, and Ed Gibson on this mission that lasted an incredible eighty-four days, from November 17, 1973 to February 8, 1974. The obverse features a large number "3", the astronaut surnames, and three circular icons symbolizing the three major areas of investigation in the mission: a tree representing man's natural environment; a hydrogen atom representing man's exploration of the physical world; and a human silhouette representing mankind. The reverse depicts the Comet Kohoutek with engraved mission dates. The serial number is on the rim along with the sterling and Robbins hallmarks. Original case with pad and numbered sticker on the bottom included. Flown medals from the crewmembers of the flight are very popular with collectors. Excellent condition.
Included with this lot is a handwritten and signed letter from Pogue. It was received too late to be included in the printed catalog. The content is transcribed below (see last image):
"In early 1972, Jerry Carr, Ed Gibson and I were announced as the prime crew for the third and final visit to Skylab, our first space station.
"At this time we still had several Apollo missions to go and they needed the Command Module simulator for those missions. Skylab mission simulation would have to wait.
"We focused on what we could do using trainers and technical discussions to learn how Skylab and all its systems worked. We also had to design our mission 'patch' or insignia.
"We sketched out a design emphasizing the three major areas of inquiry: 1. The Sun (study of solar physics); 2. The Earth, studies using cameras, scanners, hand-held photos and photographs backed up by visual observations. The third area was test and evaluations of the crews' reaction to the long term effects of weightlessness or zero gravity.
"Every working day one of us served as 'test subject' for these tests and we weren't all 'happy campers' but endured the 'procedures' dreamed up by the 'NASA Docs.' The docs referred to us as 'lab rats' and I must say it was an honest characterization, although unflattering. The unpleasantness of being stuck, prodded and squeezed was offset by the knowledge that we were contributing to a better understanding of the space environments as it relates to space operations.
"One major publication alluding to some of the more uncomfortable aspects of spaceflight, made a cogent appraisal of Skylab. 'Skylab may have been the ugly duckling of space but it was the stately swan of science.'
"Bill Pogue, Pilot Skylab 4/ October 7, 2012"
Also included is an unsigned typescript from Pogue that includes the following enlightening information regarding the design of the mission insignia and the confusing nomenclature of the Skylab missions:
"The primary areas of investigation mentioned above were symbolized in the design of the mission patch. I developed a design for our mission which incorporated the Arabic numerical #4 because our official designators were 2, 3 & 4. Skylab 1 was the unmanned launch of the 'LAB,' however some people at the Johnson Spacecraft Center (JSC) were using 1, 2 & 3 to designate the three manned missions.
"Confusion reigned! It was a mess. We sought clarification and appealed to the manager of Skylab program. He said 'you are 1, 2 & 3!' We shelved the first patch design (using #4) and changed it to a '3.' It was cleaned up by a NASA artist and sent up channels to NASA Headquarters.
"We forgot about the patch and focused full time on preparing for the mission. When our patch design arrived on the desk of the associate administrator for manned space flight, he said 'NO! NO! NO! They are 2, 3 & 4.' I recovered my original design and sent the original design (4) which had been finished several months earlier to NASA HQ thinking that would be the end of the confusion. In a week or so the reaction from the 'HeadShed' was mystifying. They sent a message saying we could use the original '3' design, i.e. We were 1, 2 & 3 again. This really threw us for a loop until we discovered why they had changed their minds again.
"The contractor who manufactured our 'in-flight' clothing had a time schedule so they used the only patch that was available when they began to make our 'daily duds' and it was the 1, 2 & 3 version. Further, the crew's clothing was already stowed onboard Skylab, which was in pre-launch processing at the Kennedy Space Center. It would have been unacceptable in terms of delays and expense to change the insignia, so the 1, 2 & 3 designation was approved by default. Pity the poor collectors who pulled out their hair trying to organize their Skylab trophies. On the bright side the three Skylab missions each set, successively, eight new records in distance and duration."
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