Science: Skylab Will Come Tumbling Down

The U.S. abandons efforts to salvage its space station

It was the pride of the U.S. space program, the largest and most sophisticated vehicle ever sent into orbit. Circling the earth every 90 minutes, the 85-ton Skylab had been a scientific workshop for three teams of astronauts for a total of 172 days. But lately it has been in trouble. Unoccupied since 1974, Skylab has been losing altitude much more rapidly than expected, a change threatening it with incineration in the earth's atmosphere.

To prevent that, NASA engineers had devised a daring rescue. The new...