The Soviet Union launches unmanned space probe Luna 11 toward the moon, the first of a new, smaller generation of Luna probes designed to survey the moon from orbit. Unlike its predecessor, Luna 11 is equipped with cameras, and like NASA’s Lunar Orbiter, Luna 11 is tasked with mapping the moon in advance of a presumed attempt to land cosmonauts there. However, an attitude control problem points Luna 11’s cameras away from the moon, unable to transmit useful imagery back to Earth. Luna 11 remains functional in orbit of the moon for six weeks.
42 days into their stay aboard the military space station Salyut 5, Soviet cosmonauts Boris Volynov and Vitaly Zholobov report unusual odors in the station’s air. On the 49th day of their stay, the two men bundle into their Soyuz 21 capsule to return home on only 10 hours’ notice, an unprecedented event. Details of the causes of the emergency return remain closely guarded to this day, including the possibility of toxic gas escaping into the station’s atmosphere and causing one or both cosmonauts to suffer rapidly deteriorating health. Neither of them fly in space again after their return.
Sierra releases the computer role playing game game Ultima II: Revenge Of The Enchantress for the Apple II. Written by Richard “Lord British” Garriott, this is the second volume of the best-selling Ultima series of RPGs, and the first to introduce space travel and science fiction elements into the games’ sword-and-sorcery fantasy setting.
CBS Records releases Wendy Carlos‘ instrumental album Digital Moonscapes. Performed entirely on synthesizers (credited on the album to the “LSI Philharmonic Orchestra”), the album includes one track (“Io”) which was originally composed for, and dropped from, a scene in the movie Tron (for which Carlos also composed the soundtrack).
The eighth episode of Chris Boucher’s futuristic police drama Star Cops premieres on the BBC. Geoffrey Bayldon guest stars.
The second episode of the Sci-Fi Channel original series Welcome To Paradox airs, a loosely-connected anthology of science fiction stories set in Betaville, a utopian future city whose incredible technology has frequently unintended side-effects. Robert Wisden (Jeremiah, Smallville) stars in a story adapted from the works of SF authors James H. Schmitz and A.E. van Vogt.
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