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Toxicological Aspects of the Skylab Program (SKYTOX)
Research Area:
Species Studied
Scientific Name: Homo sapiens Species: Human

Prior to the Skylab program, there was an increased concern by scientists that a closed-loop environment in a space station would facilitate the build up of poisonous gases. More and more newly developed nonmetallic materials, such as fluorinated polymers, were being used in the spacecraft materials during the Apollo Program. This required special attention to test for outgassing products from these materials. In addition, none of the environmental control life support systems in previous spacecraft or in the Skylab were designed to provide carbon monoxide (CO) removal. In order to provide a quality environment, the Skylab program adopted several layers of atmospheric protection which included:
1. A nonmetallic material screening program which was designed to eliminate those materials that could cause problems as a result of their outgassed products.
2. Establishment of acceptance levels for both carbon monoxide and total organics based on the spacecraft habitable volume, the trace gas removal rate, the environmental control life support systems, and the cabin leak rate.
3. Eetermination of lethal dosages for pyrolysis products from polymers which were considered for use as electrical components.
4. Identification of pyrolysis products by gas chromatography and mass spectrometry.

During the launch of the Skylab Orbital Workshop on the Saturn V rocket, the micrometeoroid shield was ripped away from the outer surface of the spacecraft, leaving Skylab exposed to the intense heat of the Sun. This resulted in the overheating of the Orbital Workshop interior wall insulation material. Temperature sensors indicated that the interior walls had attained a projected temperature of a scorching 350 degrees Fahrenheit on the skin side of the insulation and 160 degrees Fahrenheit on the interior volume side of the spacecraft insulation. Since the protective insulation was made up of rigid polyurethane foam, a potential toxicological hazard could develop as a result of the thermal decomposition of the polymer, to produce an isocyanate derivative.

The objectives for making a toxicological assessment of Skylab were to measure both carbon monoxide and toluene diisocyanate, and to identify possible nonmetallic toxicants in the Skylab Orbital Workshop.

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Rippstein WJ, Schneider HJ. Chapter 10: toxicological aspects of the Skylab program. In: Johnson RS, Dietlein L, eds. Biomedical Results from Skylab. Washington, DC: NASA Headquarters; 1977:70-2. NASA SP-377. [NTRS]

Rippstein WJ, Schneider HJ. Toxicological aspects of the Skylab program. In: Johnston RS, Dietlein LF, eds. The Proceedings of the Skylab Life Sciences Symposium; Houston, TX; 27-29 August 1974. Houston, TX: NASA Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center; 1974;1:157-68. NASA TM X-58154. [NTRS]

Skylab mission report, second visit. Postflight analysis of engineering, experimentation, and medical aspects. NASA Johnson Space Center; Houston, TX, United States. January 01, 1974. NASA TM-X-69996. [NTRS]

Carbon monoxide
Chromatography, gas
Environmental monitoring
Environmental pollutants
Life support systems
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Data Information
Data Availability
Archive is complete. No data sets are available for this experiment. Please Contact LSDA if you know of available data for this investigation.

Atmospheric contaminants
Polymer decomposition

Mission/Study Information
Mission Launch/Start Date Landing/End Date Duration
Skylab 2 05/25/1973 06/22/1973 28 days
Skylab 3 07/28/1973 09/25/1973 59.5 days
Skylab 4 11/16/1973 02/08/1974 84 days

Additional Information
Managing NASA Center
Johnson Space Center (JSC)
Responsible NASA Representative
Johnson Space Center LSDA Office
Project Manager: Pamela A. Bieri
Institutional Support
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)