Get Out Your Skylab Repellent

Get out your Skylab repellent!

With the impending crash of a Chinese rocket sometime today, I’m reminded of the Skylab “incident” from my childhood.

Remember that?

It was July of 1979, and the whole country was waiting to see where Skylab, the first successful space station, would crash to Earth. It had been launched by the United States just six years earlier and had successfully housed astronauts for extended periods of time, but after unexpectedly high sunspot activity, it began to deteriorate and eventually, came crashing to Earth, raining debris on the Indian Ocean and Australia. No one was injured by the falling debris.

But in the lead-up to the “event,” enterprising people all over the country cashed in. My parents wouldn’t let me waste my money on it, but at twelve years old, I sure wanted to buy a can of Skylab Repellent. It was a joke, of course, but people really bought it. There were also t-shirts depicting a “Skylab Protection Device,” featuring an umbrella with a satellite dish on top. I’m not sure how that was supposed to protect someone, but OK.

Everyone was wondering aloud where Skylab would fall to Earth, and kids like me were terrified we would be squashed by it. No one was squashed.

In the aftermath of the Skylab crash, people continued to cash in, selling t-shirts declaring, “I Survived Skylab.” Cha-ching! Cha-ching! That was the sound of dollars hitting their bank accounts, because I feel pretty sure they sold quite a few of those gimmicky shirts. And after that? I don’t know what happened to all those t-shirts, but I haven’t seen one in person in years. I’ve seen a few on eBay, but I don’t know anyone who actually has one. Maybe they are locked in trunks in people’s houses. Most of them were pretty crude designs, so they’d look silly today. Maybe people are embarrassed they actually spent money on them. Or maybe they all just got lost along the way.

I haven’t seen any of that entrepreneurial spirit about the Chinese rocket. I guess, these days, we are all too jaded by 24-hour news to get interested in much. If you’ve seen anyone selling rocket repellent or t-shirts, let me know.

Of course, we don’t have any idea how much of the Chinese rocket will actually make it back to Earth. Some of it will surely disintegrated on re-entry into the atmosphere, but pieces of it could still fall. The chances of you or anyone you know or love being in its path? Let’s just say it’s not very likely. It’s not something to worry about, and if it does fall on you, you won’t even know what hit you…literally.