The Media Jumped On A Fake Story About Astronauts Going On Strike
William Pogue served 24 years in the Air Force, then went into space as an astronaut. He was aboard the first American space station, Skylab, setting a record for longest mission, which lasted 20 years (the record, not the mission). Here's the headline of his NY Times obituary: "William Pogue, Astronaut Who Staged a Strike in Space, Dies at 84."
The idea of a strike in space would be headline-worthy, if it happened. But it didn't. Here's what did happen.
The 1973 mission, Skylab 4, was pretty packed. NASA gave the men more spacewalks than their predecessors, more exercise, more everything—the guys became known as "the 150% crew." It wasn't easy, having their entire days micromanaged. Even the way the astronauts handled their leisure time sounds a bit like severe cabin fever: They filled the spacesuits with stuffing, fashioned them into dummies, and posed them in fun spots around the station. Sometimes, they'd forget these were dummies and got spooked.
The three men decided that when it came time to check in with mission control, just one of them would handle it. They messed up the schedule, and during one of these scheduled sessions, none of them took the mic. This slot lasted just 10 minutes. After another 90 minutes, it was time for another session, and the men were back in communication.
A few years later, The New Yorker reported on the mission and referred to the men's time MIA as a strike. Other outlets conflated several unrelated stories: the missed check-in, the men later taking a day off (a scheduled day off, the day after Christmas), and the men talking to mission control on December 30 and asking for more free time. This turned into an urban legend called the "Skylab Mutiny," the time astronauts turned off their radios and refused to work for a day.
Even that NY Times obituary, if you read all the way through, reveals that though the men later used the term "the strike," they only did so jokingly. The astronauts would later laugh off the idea that they'd gone on strike. "What were we going to do?" quipped one of them, Ed Gibson. "Threaten to live on the Moon?"
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Top image: NASA