Star Trek: The Man Trap

Star TrekWith over two years of development behind it, Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek finally premieres on NBC with The Man Trap, the completed episode that the network feels most strongly represents the series concept and will connect with a 1960s audience accustomed to police shows and westerns. (It also helps NBC – and its corporate parent, General Electric, who has a stake in the television manufacturing industry – showcase its new season in color.)

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The U.S.S. Enterprise gets a toon-up

Star TrekAfter years of denying that Star Trek had ever been a “kids show” like its prime-time rival Lost In Space, Gene Roddenberry agrees to NBC’s offer to restart the science fiction cult classic as an animated series, premiering on the seventh anniversary of the live-action show’s debut with the episode Beyond The Farthest Star. In the end, this series becomes the only iteration of the Star Trek franchise to win an Emmy Award for a non-technical (i.e. music, hairstyling, special effects) category.

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Voyagers survive the asteroid belt

JupiterVoyager 1 emerges unharmed from what is considered the outer limit of the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, having entered this 223,000,000-mile-wide zone of space in December 1977. Voyager 2 is expected to emerge similarly unscathed in late October 1978. NASA’s Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft had already demonstrated, in the early 1970s, that passage through the asteroid belt without mission-jeopardizing damage is possible. Both spacecraft are already imaging Jupiter from a distance of less than 180,000,000 miles, now meeting or exceeding the resolution of the best photos of Jupiter taken from Earth-based telescopes.

Joust

JoustWith the words “Prepare to joust, buzzard bait!”, Williams Electronics launches an arcade sleeper hit built on unlikely juxtapositions (medieval knights, jousting with lances, riding on ostriches, over a lake of lava, stalked by pterodactyls). Joust becomes immensely popular for its simultaneous two-player mode, in which one’s buddy can be as much of a liability as any of the computer-controlled enemies. Whispers of movie deals based on the game are briefly heard before the video game industry’s fortunes change at the end of the year.

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Babylon 5 spinoff in trouble?

CrusadeA memo from cable network TNT is leaked to the internet, revealing that the network’s programming executives are requesting an increase in sex and violence on the upcoming Babylon 5 spinoff series Crusade. A specific example from one episode is cited in which a telepath is lured into believing that a crewmember is a terrorist and acts rashly as a result; the network would prefer the telepath’s rash actions to be the result of a more straightforward (and less sci-fi-oriented) seduction scene. Series creator J. Michael Straczynski cryptically refuses to confirm or deny that the memo is real. The series has been in production for only four weeks, and won’t air until 1999.

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STS-106: getting the place ready

Space ShuttleSpace Shuttle Atlantis lifts off on the 99th shuttle mission, a 12-day visit to the still-unoccupied International Space Station. Spacewalks and work in the station’s pressurized compartments make the final connections between the Russian-launched Zvezda service module and the rest of the station, and over three tons of supplies – most flown aboard Atlantis, but some contained in an unmanned Progress supply ship which has already automatically docked to the station – are transferred to the station. Atlantis’ 21st crew is Commander Terrence Wilcutt, Pilot Scott Altman, and mission specialists Daniel Burbank, Edward Lu, Richard Mastracchio, Yuri Malenchenko and Boris Morokov. In 2003, Lu and Malenchenko will return as the station’s seventh full-time residents.

In too deep: Genesis’ disastrous landing

GenesisThe NASA/JPL Genesis mission, a 29-month trek through the solar system to gather solar particles and return them to Earth, ends in disaster when both of the parachutes – meant to slow the returning Genesis capsule down and give retrieval helicopters something to hook onto to bring the capsule to the ground safely – fail to open. As a result, the 420+ pound Genesis capsule slams into the Utah desert floor at nearly 200 miles per hour. The impact breaches not only the outer re-entry shell of the capsule, but the experiment canister within containing the fragile plates of gold, sapphire, diamond and other pure substances, all of which had been exposed to the solar wind to collect particles from the sun. Scientists begin picking through the debris to see what portions of those collection devices can be salvaged. Several pieces of the collection devices are salvageable, with at least two complete plates and fragments of several others, but many other plates are reduced to dust by the impact of landing.

OSIRIS-REx

OSIRIS-RExNASA launches the unmanned OSIRIS-REx (Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer) spacecraft, bound for the asteroid Bennu, a target it won’t reach for two years. Once at Bennu, OSIRIS-REx is intended to orbit the asteroid and then drop down close enough to gather surface samples for return to Earth in a small sample container capable of surviving re-entry through the atmosphere. The samples from Bennu, an asteroid considered a hazard for Earth in the future, will not arrive until September 2023.