The First Stanford Astronaut Returns from Space

Owen Garriott spent nearly two months aboard Skylab 3.

September 2023

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The First Stanford Astronaut Returns from Space

Photos: NASA (2)

After watching the launch of Sputnik 1—the first artificial satellite put into Earth orbit—in 1957, Owen Garriott decided to focus his electrical engineering dissertation on satellites. But it wasn’t until the Soviet Union and the United States began launching manned vehicles in 1961 that he realized a researcher like him might have a place in space.

Garriott, MS ’57, PhD ’60, was accepted into NASA’s flight program in 1965 and helped design Skylab, the first American space station. “Skylab basically was a science program,” he said during an oral history interview with NASA in 2000. On July 28, 1973, while on leave from his position as a professor of electrical engineering at Stanford, Garriott became the first Stanford graduate in space, aboard Skylab 3. (Since then, 22 more alum astronauts have been trained.) Most of Garriott’s job there consisted of conducting experiments—including with minnows, mice, and spiders—but he was also the only crew member to go on all three Skylab 3 space walks. He and his two co-pilots took historic measurements of the sun, and their experience aboard the space station advanced the understanding of human adaptability to weightlessness.

Garriott spent 59 consecutive days in space in 1973 (a record at the time), returning to Earth on September 25. The three crew members had orbited the planet for 24.5 million miles, paving the way for future long-duration missions.

Kali Shiloh is a staff writer at Stanford. Email her at kshiloh@stanford.edu.

Vintage 1973 Collection

Stanford is 50! It turns out we’re not the only one. Walk with us down memory lane as we sample some of the wonders and horrors of the 1973–74 academic year on the Farm, and in the world around.

Start the Presses

Were Golden

89 Rodins Find a New Home

A Godfather Delivers a Ransom Payment

A Splashy Debut

The Winds of Freedom

SLE Club

‘Until the Birds Took Over the Singing’

The Poet and the Coup

Steps Toward Saving Salamanders Are Set in Motion

A Sequel for Supersonic Flight?

The First Stanford Astronaut Returns from Space

The End of the Nursing Education Era

Keepers of the Flame

50 Years After the Stanford Murders, Three of Four Families Have Answers

A Classic Is Released

A Young Lawyer Wins an Educational Equity Case

Joining the Force


The Axe Is Stolen One Last Time

Fit to Be Tried

For Commencement Speaker, a Watergate Special Prosecutor

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