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First to go to a space station: The Russians sent the world's first space station, Salyut 1, to Earth orbit April 19, 1971. Cosmonauts Nikolai Rukavishnikov, Vladimir Shatalov and Alexei Yeliseyev left the USSR April 22 for the station. They docked at Salyut 1, but stayed less than six hours and then hurried home.
First to work in a space station: Cosmonauts Georgi Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkov and Viktor Patsayev flew to space June 6, 1971, to become the first crew to work inside a space station, but also the second USSR space tragedy. They stayed 23 days at Salyut 1. Not wearing spacesuits, all three died on the flight home as air escaped their capsule during re-entry.
First to a U.S. space station: Skylab, America's only real space station in the 20th century, was launched unmanned May 14, 1973, on the last Saturn 5 Moon rocket. The station was 84 feet long and weighed 84 tons, four times the size of the USSR's Salyut station. Charles P. "Pete" Conrad Jr., Joseph P. Kerwin and Paul J. Weitz flew May 25 to open the station, staying 28 days. After two later astronaut visits, Skylab was allowed to re-enter the atmosphere and burn in 1979.
First permanently-manned station: Yuri Romanenko and Alexander I. Laveikin arrived at Mir February 8, 1987, the first permanent-manning crew of a space station.
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