The Skylab Stowaway


  1. The Skylab stowaway (RIP Owen Garriott)
  2. The only wristwatch I'd ever splurge on
  3. Personal items I'd bring to Mars

Current events

Sad news - astronaut Owen Garriott passed away on Monday at the age of 88. Though I love NASA history, I'll admit I'd never heard of him until he died, but turns out he's a fascinating guy. Garriott was part of NASA's 4th class of astronauts, a special group nicknamed "The Scientists" (every NASA astronaut class has a nickname) because they were the first class chosen on the basis of academic research and experience (masters or PhD required), rather than military service as test pilots.

Garriott's first mission was Skylab 3 in 1973, the second mission to the US's first space station, along with Alan Bean and Jack Lousma. My favorite part was when Garriott pranked Mission Control - a sexy female voice inexplicably started speaking to Houston from the station, calling capsule communicator (capcom) Bob Crippen by his name and saying "The boys haven't had a home-cooked meal in so long I thought I'd bring one up." After describing the view from space, the voice then said "Oh oh. I have to cut off now. I think the boys are floating up here toward the command module and I'm not supposed to be talking to you." Turns out, Garriott had secretly recorded his wife's voice beforehand!

Garriott on a spacewalk during Skylab 3

Funny enough, Garriott himself was in charge of capcom for Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on Apollo 11. Guess that wasn't enough to stop him from messing with his own capcom guy! Garriott would fly again on Space Shuttle Columbia in 1983. 

Today I learned

Even on the moon, astronauts need to keep track of time, so NASA needed a chronograph wristwatch that could survive the harsh environment of space. They considered watches from Longines-Wittnauer, Rolex, and Omega, and eventually picked the Omega Speedmaster. See the Wikipedia page for the intense performance criteria they were evaluated on

Buzz Aldrin wearing his Speedmaster on Apollo 11

Although Armstrong was first on the moon, his Speedmaster didn't make it to the lunar surface because the Lunar Module's electronic clock malfunctioned, so he left his watch on board as a backup before stepping off. 

I'm not really a watch guy, I feel a $10 plastic watch tells time just fine, but if there's one watch I'd one day splurge on, it's the gold Apollo 50th anniversary limited edition of the Omega Speedmaster. It'd only set me back about $30,000!

Just... WOW

This week in space history

Apollo 16 was the fifth and penultimate manned lunar landing, launching from Cape Canaveral on April 16, 1972. John Young and Charlie Duke spent three days on the moon while Ken Mattingly orbited above. Their landing site, the Descartes Formation, was chosen because it was geologically older than the prior landing sites and was thought to be volcanic in origin (a hypothesis the mission disproved)

On the Apollo missions, the astronauts were allowed to carry a small "Personal Preference Kit" with a few personal items to bring to the moon. Duke left a photo of his family, something I found quite touching

If I were the first man on Mars, I think these would be the items I'd leave behind: a photo of my family, my burnt orange Texas Longhorns golf ball, my San Antonio Spurs hat, a Chinese red envelope, and the paper rocket to Mars I made in pre-K

My rocket to Mars, designed in 2000


  1. Oh my gosh! What an expensive watch. Maybe we'll get it for you for your 100th birthday once we have saved up lol

    1. Haha by the time I'm 100, they'll be celebrating the 127th anniversary of Apollo 11. Hopefully by then we'll be on Mars