In the early 1970s, the Soviets launched Salyut ("salute"), the first manned space station. Although rather cramped, Salyut established the viability of operating and maintaining laboratories in space. Six successful Salyut missions were made between 1971 and 1986.
The United States launched their space station Skylab on 14 May 1973. Hundreds of experiments and observations were made during its three missions. Skylab eventually fell back to Earth, burning up over Australia in 1979.
The most successful space outpost has been the Russian Mir ("peace") space station, launched in February 1986, and occupied almost continuously since. It has been visited several times by United States shuttle astronauts in a prelude to the construction of an international space station.