Tornado Intercept Project

Weather BulletinStudents and seasoned weather researchers at the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Oklahoma embark on the Tornado Intercept Project (TIP), a concerted effort to gather film footage of developing or active tornadoes in an effort to study wind and debris patterns. Though believed by some to be of limited scientific value, TIP is the beginning of “storm chasing” and yields major breakthroughs in scientific understanding of the formation of tornadoes just one year later.

Mariner Jupiter/Saturn ’77

VoyagerHaving spent six years wrangling with various mission profiles for a “Grand Tour” of the outer solar system, made possible by a favorable planetary alignment occurring only once every 175 years, NASA finally authorizes a very stripped-down version of its original ambitious Grand Tour plans. The Mariner Jupiter/Saturn ’77 mission will consist of two twin unmanned spacecraft to be launched in 1977, each on a course to explore Jupiter, and then to use Jupiter’s gravity to deflect them to Saturn. These spacecraft will be renamed Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 just a few months before lifting off.

Apollo-Soyuz agreement signed

Apollo-SoyuzAfter two years of hammering out details and wording, President Nixon and Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin sign an international agreement to share science and technology between the United States and Soviet Union, including an agreement to mount a joint space mission culminating in the docking of an Apollo spacecraft and a Soyuz spacecraft in Earth orbit in 1975. Both nations’ space agencies begin crew selection and technical preparations for a joint venture that seemed impossible during the Cold War-fueled race to the moon.

An international space station?

Skylab-SalyutWith planning already well underway for the Apollo-Soyuz mission which won’t take place until 1975, NASA commissions a study from McDonnell Douglas to explore the feasibility of a follow-up to the international space mission, possibly involving joining the backup of the Skylab space station (known as “Skylab B”) and a yet-to-be-launched Soviet Salyut space station at some point in the latter half of the 1970s, effectively creating a joint international space station. Although the study goes so far as to specify issues of concern regarding the structure of the two stations and their respective standard atmospheric pressures, the recommendations are shelved pending the outcome of the Apollo-Soyuz flight. Significant political developments in the late 1970s will prevent the idea of an international station from moving forward for at least a quarter century.

Atari launched

AtariIn Santa Clara, California, Atari is formed by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney. The company is initially part of Bushnell’s desire to continue competing in the coin-operated game market, where he believes video games can take part of the market share from pinball, but consumer products are not far from Bushnell’s mind either: two weeks before Atari’s incorporation, he attends a Magnavox product fair and gets a first-hand look at the first home video game console.

More about Atari in Phosphor Dot Fossils

Apollo: the Shuttle’s lifeboat?

Space Shuttle with Apollo capsuleSpace shuttle contractor North American Rockwell submits a safety study to NASA concerning safety and escape systems for the upcoming space shuttle, including a study of smaller vehicles with potential use as “lifeboats” in the event that a shuttle is unfit for return to Earth due to heat shield or other catastrophic damage. The various proposals, which include the possibility of permanently berthing an Apollo command module (another vehicle contracted to North American Rockwell) in the shuttle’s cargo bay for use as a lifeboat, are rejected by NASA due to the impact that each proposal would have on available space and weight for cargo.

Pioneer 10 plunges into the asteroid belt

Pioneer 10En route to becoming the first human-made spacecraft to visit Jupiter, NASA’s Pioneer 10 also becomes the first human-made spacecraft to enter the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Whether or not the spacecraft will survive this crossing is indeed one of the mission’s major experiments, and is a topic of active debate between scientists with differing views of how densely populated the asteroid belt may be. The spacecraft will survive the crossing without incident.

Landsat 1

LandsatOriginally named ERTS-1 (Earth Resource Technology Satellite), NASA’s Landsat satellite, based on the Nimbus weather satellites, is launched to begin constant observations of Earth’s land, air and oceans. Landsat 1’s tour of duty lasts just under six years, during which it discovers a previously unknown island – never before spotted from land or sea – off the northeastern Canadian coast. Landsat 1 remains in service through 1978.