§ Mr. Moonman
asked the Secretary of State for Defence what information he has concerning possible hazards in 1979 arising out of the decay in orbit of the American Skylab; what steps he is taking and what procedures are being initiated; and what consultations he has had with the United States Government.
§ Mr. Mulley
The lifetime of Skylab is very difficult to predict, but the best estimate at present is that decay in the earth's atmosphere is likely to occur between May and November 1979. The position will be continuously monitored and more accurate estimates will be made as decay approaches.
When Skylab re-enters the lower atmosphere most of it will be burnt up. Pieces of the satellite will, however, probably survive and, although a potential hazard, will most probably fall into the sea or in a sparsely inhabited area. Its orbit is 85W such that the risk of its falling on any part of mainland Britain is very small.
We understand that NASA may attempt to manoeuvre Skylab to bring it down over the ocean. Other possible safety measures are also under consideration.