Remembering Dr. Owen Garriott

Co-workers and friends at Skylab anniversary event with Skylab Mission Three astronauts, Alan Bean, Dr. Owen K. Garriott, and Jack R. Lousma.

I’ve had the honor to meet Dr. Owen Garriott a few times.  However, our first encounter was less than stellar on my account.  I was the Membership Coordinator for the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.  We had a quarterly newsletter that we mailed to each member called Quest that included an article or two, member events and a closeup photo of a mysterious artifact.

Shortly after one of the issues mailed, I got a phone call.  I answered with the standard greeting, and this semi-frustrated voice on the other end says “Hi, I’m a member and I have a question about the mystery artifact photo”.   He goes on to say that he isn’t interested in winning the photo contest (a free 1-year extension of membership) but he thinks he knows what it is and he doesn’t want to wait until the next quarter when the answer comes out.  I laugh and agree to verify his answer knowing that this was one of the hardest photos I had ever published. He quickly blurted out, “is it an Omega Speedmaster Professional watch” and to my surprise, he hit the nail on the head.  I laughed and said something to the effect of yes and how on Earth did you know that?  His reply was short and simple, “well I’m a former astronaut”.

I had no idea that Owen was a member.  Needless to say, I immediately went back and checked the list 1200 members and found two other former astronauts.  He came to a few of the after-hours member events at the center. He never expected to have attention called to him and he blended in with everyone else.  However, I recall one time, when the Skylab mock-up was in the old main museum, he had turned into a museum guide, standing in the doorway of the mock-up pointing out all the features of his former Skylab home to anyone that was interested in hearing his stories. By the end of the evening, he had drawn quite a crowd.

When I visit the Skylab mock-up at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, I almost always think back to that first phone call.  Dr. Garriott was a good guy and one of the most humble people I have ever met. I will always be thankful for the times I got to interact with him.

Scientist-Astronaut Owen K. Garriott, science pilot of the Skylab 3 mission, is stationed at the Apollo Telescope Mount (ATM) console in the Multiple Docking Adapter of the Skylab space station in Earth orbit. From this console the astronauts actively control the ATM solar physics telescope . Image NASA