In early April, while propelled by Atlas-Centaur rocket, NASA's Pioneer 11 spacecraft departs on an interplanetary journey from Cape Canaveral. The spacecraft encounters Jupiter (December 2, 1974) and then uses a gravity assist maneuver to establish a flyby trajectory to Saturn. It is the first spacecraft to view Saturn at close range (closest encounter on September 1, 1979) and then follows a path into interstellar space.

On May 14, NASA launches Skylab—the first American space station. A giant Saturn V rocket is used to place the entire large facility into orbit in a single launch. The first crew of three American astronauts arrives on May 25 and makes the emergency repairs necessary to save the station, which suffered damage during the launch ascent. Astronauts Charles (Pete) Conrad, Jr., Paul J. Weitz, and Joseph P. Kerwin stay onboard for 28 days. They are replaced by astronauts Alan L. Bean, Jack R. Lousma, and Owen K. Garriott, who arrive on July 28 and live in space for about 59 days. The final Skylab crew (astronauts Gerald P. Carr, William R. Pogue, and Edward G. Gibson) arrive on November 11 and resided in the station until February 8, 1974—setting a space endurance record (for the time) of 84 days. NASA then abandons Skylab.

In early November, NASA launches the Mariner 10 spacecraft from Cape Canaveral. It encounters Venus (February 5, 1974) and uses a gravity assist maneuver to become the first spacecraft to investigate Mercury at close range

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