Quark premieres

QuarkNBC airs the pilot of Quark, a new series from Get Smart creator Buck Henry which marks an unlikely combination of science fiction and sitcom. The pilot broadcast gets enough attention to merit a series pickup, but within weeks, Henry’s writing staff is presented with a much meatier target for satire than Star Trek, which Quark originally sets out to parody.

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First Star Trek movie… cancelled?

Star TrekAfter spending months in development, the much-publicized big-screen relaunch of Star Trek is cancelled by Paramount. Unable to find a satisfactory script, and having great difficulty negotiating with the stars of the TV series, Star Trek: Planet Of The Titans is dumped by the studio, with no other plans to revive Star Trek in the works. Mere weeks later, a record-breaking movie not originating from Paramount convinces the studio to get back into the big-budget science fiction space race.

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Space Cooperation Agreement renewed

Apollo-SoyuzWith the 1972 agreement having resulted in the successful Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, the United States and the Soviet Union formally renew the Space Cooperation Agreement. As an immediate goal to build on Apollo-Soyuz, both countries hold tentative discussions about docking the American Space Shuttle (which, it is still assumed, will be in space before the 1970s are out) and a Soviet Salyut space station. Though the shuttle’s first flight is still being delayed, the biggest hurdle will prove to be international relations, specifically a renewed chilling of the Cold War thanks to the Soviet Union’s 1979 invasion of Afghanistan.

Star Wars

Star WarsBoasting a story and characters with universal appeal, a magnificent soundtrack, and special effects unlike anything that had been seen before, George Lucas’ Star Wars arrives, changing the movie industry and geekdom forever. Word-of-mouth – to say nothing of lines of moviegoers winding around the block, eager to immediately see the movie again – spreads like wildfire, and suddenly it’s okay to be a science fiction fan.

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Apple II

Apple IIApple Computer introduces the Apple II home computer system, an already-built 4K computer (with an optional upgrade to 48K) capable of displaying color graphics on a TV or monitor, and storing programs on either cassette or floppy disk. The computer ships with an implementation of BASIC written by Steve Wozniak, with an optional pair of paddle controllers for games. The system also has an open architecture, with space for expansion cards (and no restriction on what cards can be developed, or by whom).

More about Apple II in Phosphor Dot Fossils

Alan Parsons Project: I Robot

PyramidThe Alan Parsons Project releases its second album, I Robot, including the singles “I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You”, “Breakdown” and “Don’t Let It Show” (the latter of which is covered latered by Pat Benatar). The album is loosely themed around fear of the future and technology, a far cry from the original plan for a concept album built around Isaac Asimov’s story “I, Robot” (though Asimov allows the album’s title since it lacks the comma). This is the Project’s first album on Arista Records.

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Kenner signs on for Star Wars madness

Star WarsThe unexpected runaway success of a dark horse in the summer movie race makes for a mad dash for the toy rights. The winner of that race is Kenner Products, the toy division of cereal maker General Mills, and the prize is the exclusive license to market toys and other products based on Star Wars. Prior to the movie’s release, however, George Lucas has convinced 20th Century Fox to allow him to keep all toy licensing rights, meaning that ongoing licensing payments are made directly to Lucas, providing him with the lion’s share of his future wealth. Kenner executive Bernard Loomis finds himself fighting to convince his own sales team that this movie will attract more than a momentary audience. With the late start and the long lead time on design, tooling and manufacture, Loomis concocts an audacious marketing scheme involving an “empty box” available by Christmas.

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Paramount announces network, new Trek

Paramount Television ServiceNo sooner has Paramount’s movie arm axed Star Trek‘s big screen comeback than the studio’s television division announces the unthinkable: Paramount will form its own network, to premiere in February 1978, taking on ABC, CBS, and NBC in prime time. Leading off the new network’s first night will be a two-hour, made-for-TV Star Trek movie starring William Shatner and most of the original cast (with Leonard Nimoy notable by his absence), who will then go on to star in a weekly series chronicling the further adventure of the Enterprise. Gene Roddenberry will return as the creator of the new series. But within just a few weeks, it becomes apparent that the “big three” networks are ready to play hardball to keep Paramount’s network off the air, from leaning on their advertisers to avoid buying ad time on the new network, to quietly threatening to stop picking up Paramount-produced series for their own fall schedules.

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GOES-2 goes up

GOES-2 launchThe second in a new generation of geosynchronous weather satellites is launched for the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, GOES-2. An acronym for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, GOES-2 is initially positioned at a point over 60 degrees west longitude on Earth, though it will be repositioned several times in its career as a weather satellite. In 1993, it will cease weather monitoring operations and will act chiefly as a communications satellite serving islands in the Pacific Ocean, as well as manned research facilities in Antarctica. GOES-2 will serve that function through 2001.

Enterprise takes another test drive

EnterpriseMounted on the back of Boeing 747, the Space Shuttle Enterprise takes off on its first crewed flight, the first of three “captive-active” flights which see Enterprise remain in place on its carrier aircraft. For the first time, Enterprise’s computers, avionics and other flight systems are powered up in a full-up, hour-long dress rehearsal of an eventual free-flight landing test at 15,000 feet. The first crew of the Space Shuttle Enterprise consists of astronauts Fred Haise and Gordon Fullerton.

Jupiter probe, Space Telescope approved

Hubble Space TelescopeCongress approves the largest NASA budget in ten years, including authorization and funding for two major unmanned spacecraft: a Space Telescope to be deployed into Earth orbit via Space Shuttle, and a yet-to-be-named Jupiter orbiter and atmospheric probe, originally proposed in the late 1960s as part of the outer planets Grand Tour mission plan. The Jupiter probe, which must be ready to launch in 1982 to take advantage of a planetary configuration providing the shortest distance between Earth and Jupiter, is the subject of a fierce budget fight in Congress. (This spacecraft will go on to be named Galileo.)

Enterprise takes to the sky again

EnterpriseRiding the back of a modified Boeing 747, Space Shuttle Enterprise ascends to 22,000 feet for her second “active-captive” test flight, with all systems powered up and a crew aboard (astronauts Joe Engle and Richard Truly). The combined vehicle reaches speeds of over 300 miles per hour, and angles for “dropoff” – for upcoming test flights in which the Enterprise will actually separate from the 747 and glide to its landing strip – are studied for future reference.

Enterprise goes around the block again

EnterpriseSpace Shuttle Enterprise takes off – on the back of a Boeing 747 – for the last of its “active-captive” flights, with a crew aboard and all systems powered up. For this final test flight prior to the first free-flight landing test mere weeks away, Enterprise is again crewed by astronauts Fred Haise and Gordon Fullerton, and reaches an altitude of 30,000 feet.

The Golden Record

Voyager recordWith less than a month to go before the launch of the first of two Voyager unmanned spacecraft, NASA attaches copper phonograph records, encased in lightweight, protective golden casings, to each of the Voyager probes. With participation from Carl Sagan (who led the effort to mount a plaque on the Pioneer probes consisting only of visual information), SETI pioneer Frank Drake, Jon Lomberg and others, the 12″ LP consists of not only sound recordings, but photos and diagrams depicting the diversity and composition of life on Earth. The sounds include various kinds of Earth wildlife, spoken messages from President Jimmy Carter and United Nations Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim, music from Beethoven and Bach to Chuck Berry (the Beatles decline permission to include “Here Comes The Sun”), and Carl Sagan’s young son Nick delcaring “Greetings from the children of planet Earth.” The outer casing includes a playback mechanism and diagrams for how to use it.

In the decades to come, fictional aliens visiting or invading Earth because they have viewed the Voyager “Golden Record” becomes a staple of science fiction media.

Exit Star Trek v2.0, enter The Motion Picture

Star TrekAt a meeting at Paramount, studio head Michael Eisner formally cancels plans for a Star Trek television series reuniting the original cast (a decision made easier by the other networks strong-arming potential advertisers into freezing out Paramount’s network startup attempt) and sets the wheels in motion to revamp the pilot script, Alan Dean Foster’s In Thy Image, into a feature film. Contracts for the series are renegotiated (or in some cases cancelled) for the movie, but scriptwriters and designers continue to work on Trek TV scripts just in case the movie leads to a small-screen resurgence. The impetus for finally getting the long-stalled Star Trek movie underway? 20th Century Fox’s runaway success with Star Wars.

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Salyut 5 burns up

Salyut 5The Soviet-launched Salyut 5 military space station tumbles out of its orbit, having exhausted the fuel needed to keep it in a controlled orbit of the Earth. The two-ton space station burns up on re-entry, having been visited by only two crews; another mission to Salyut 5 had been planned, but its fuel depletion made that flight too risky to undertake.

Voyager switcheroo

Mere weeks before the launch of the first Voyager spacecraft, NASA swaps Voyager 2 and Voyager 1. Repeated failures have plagued the attitude and articulation control and flight data subsystems in the spacecraft designated VGR77-2, leaving mission planners with doubt about its flightworthiness. VGR77-3 thus becomes Voyager 2, and VGR77-2 undergoes repairs to correct its problems before being designated Voyager 1. The two vehicles’ thermonuclear power sources are swapped, as whichever one is Voyager 2 will require a longer-lasting power source to power all instruments for possible visits to Uranus and Neptune following the 1981 Saturn encounter. (A third vehicle, VGR77-1, is an engineering test spare which eventually goes on display at the JPL campus in Pasadena.)