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1970s / Skylab Re-Entry To Earth 1979
Skylab was NASA's first orbiting space station. It was visited three times in the early 1970s before being abandoned in 1974. In 1979 it re-entered Earth's atmosphere. Fragments crashed in remote parts of western Australia. Debris was found between the towns of Esperance and Rawlinna. The Shire of Esperance fined the United States $400 for littering, a fine which remained unpaid for 30 years. The fine was eventually settled in April 2009 when a radio host, Scott Barley, solicited donations from his listeners and paid the fine on behalf of NASA. Skylab's demise was an international media event, with merchandising, wagering on time and place of re-entry, and nightly news reports. The San Francisco Examiner offered a $10,000 prize for the first piece of Skylab to be delivered to their offices. Seventeen-year-old Stan Thornton scooped a few pieces of Skylab off the roof of his home in Esperance, caught the first flight to San Francisco, and collected his prize.