Released from its 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft in mid-air for the first time, and airborne on its own for the first time, the Space Shuttle Enterprise takes wing over the dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base for a test landing. With no engines on board (a test shuttle that will never go into orbit, Enterprise isn’t equipped with them) and only one shot at a safe landing, Enterprise successfully touches down on the runway after a flight lasting only a few minutes, validating the unpowered approach method of landing a shuttle just returned from space.
NASA launches the first High Energy Astronomy Observatory satellite in Earth orbit, continuing the survey of the sky with sensitive detectors designed to find gamma ray and X-ray sources. HEAO-1 will remain in service through January 1979, and will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere in March 1979.
Mercury Records releases 10cc‘s fifth album, Deceptive Bends, the first to be recorded after the departure of founding members Kevin Godley and Lol Creme. The singles “The Things We Do For Love” and “Good Morning Judge” originate from this album.
Radio astronomers at Ohio State University observe a signal from the direction of the constellation Sagittarius that seems to jump out from the usual cosmic background noise. The 72-second signal is quickly dubbed the “Wow Signal” (thanks to a hastily scribbled note), and is considered by some to be a strong candidate for a message from an extraterrestrial civilization since its frequency falls almost exactly on the hydrogen line of the electromagnetic spectrum, a wavelength closely watched by the SETI program. But more powerful telescopes listening in on the same region of space in the years and decades to come pick up no further signals. Scientists involved in the initial analysis later admit that the “message” may be of Earthly origin, reflected back from an object in space.
NASA launches Voyager 2 (weeks ahead of Voyager 1), giving the unmanned space probe the best shot of taking advantage of a favorable planetary alignment known as the “Grand Tour”. Using a series of carefully calculated gravity assists, Voyager has the potential to visit all four of the major outer gas planets – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune – in under 15 years without having to expend fuel to make the trip. If Voyager 2 survives long enough to visit Uranus or Neptune, it will become the first man-made spacecraft to visit either planet.
Mushroom Records releases the third Split Enz album, Dizrythmia, the first of the group’s recorded output to feature frontman Tim Finn’s younger brother Neil as the new guitarist. This is also the first album to feature new recruits Nigel Griggs on bass and drummer Mal Green, both of whom will remain through the band at the peak of its success in the early 1980s.
The 454th episode of Doctor Who airs on BBC1. The Rutans, shapeshifting mortal enemies of the Sontarans, appear for the first and only time in the original series. Doctor Who’s 15th season on the air begins with this episode.
The unmanned robotic Voyager 1 space probe lifts off on a voyage to Jupiter, Saturn and beyond, taking advantage of a once-in-175-years alignment of the planets in the outer solar system. Originally designated Mariner 11, one of many planned space probes in the now greatly scaled-back Mariner Jupiter/Saturn ’77 program, Voyager 1 is also the first spacecraft to take a picture of the Earth and its moon from beyond the moon’s orbit, and will become the first human-made object to leave Earth’s solar system.
The first Space Shuttle external tank, given the designation MPTA-ET (main propulsion test article external tank), is completed at NASA’a Michoud assembly plant in New Orleans. Though constructed to flight specifications (as they stand in 1977), MPTA-ET is not intended for orbital flight, but is instead erected on a test firing stand at a NASA facility in Mississippi for tests of the three-engine shuttle propulsion system, tests which do not produce a satisfactory result until July 1980. Its job completed, MPTA-ET is later put on display at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
The 455th episode of Doctor Who airs on BBC1. The Rutans, shapeshifting mortal enemies of the Sontarans, appear for the first and only time in the original series.
CBS premieres a new live-action Saturday morning science fiction series, Space Academy, produced by Filmation (previously responsible for the animated Star Trek series). Depicting a crew of teenagers tasked with maintaining the safety of outer space, Space Academy is in the right place at the right time to capitalize on Star Wars mania.
For the second time, the Space Shuttle Enterprise makes a safe landing at Edwards Air Force base after being released from the back of NASA’s 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft at the higher altitude of 26,000 feet over the Mojave Desert. Again testing the shuttle’s glide-only landing method, Enterprise has no engines to keep it aloft and glides to a successful landing.
The superhero TV movie-of-the-week Spider-Man airs on CBS, starring Nicholas Hammond (The Sound Of Music) and David White (Bewitched). Based on the Marvel comic of the same name, Spider-Man tells the origin story of Peter Parker, a young man who gains superpowers after being bitten by a radioactive spider. Heavily promoted at the height of the character’s comics popularity, the movie does well in the ratings, but due to its effects budget, CBS is only willing to approve a short run of hour-long episodes for the following year.
The 14th episode of Wonder Woman airs on CBS, starring Lynda Carter and Lyle Waggoner. This episode, guest starring Fritz Weaver, opens the show’s second season, and advances the story into the present day (the late 1970s), eliminating the expenses of props, costumes and cars associated with wartime America.
With a writing staff populated heavily with veterans of the quickly-cancelled The Fantastic Journey, CBS launches Logan’s Run as a television series, with the extended-length pilot episode roaring through the events of the 1976 movie in mere minutes! After only a few episodes, however, CBS schedules the lightweight sci-fi series against Monday Night Football, sealing its doom.
The second episode of Filmation’s Saturday morning science fiction series Space Academy airs on CBS. The still-cutting-edge Fairchild Video Entertainment System “guest stars” as the Academy’s computer, beating Peepo at Tic-Tac-Toe.
The 456th episode of Doctor Who airs on BBC1. The Rutans, shapeshifting mortal enemies of the Sontarans, appear for the first and only time in the original series.
Barely two weeks after launch, Voyager 1 captures the first-ever photo of the Earth and its moon in their entirety, from a distance of just over seven million miles. Due to the moon’s relatively low visibility, JPL has to “brighten” the moon so it’s visible in the photo. Voyager 1 soon loses sight of Earth and the moon as it speeds toward Jupiter, a planet it won’t reach until 1979.
There’s still no word on whether or not Voyager 1 found signs of intelligent life on Earth.
The first episode of Raven premieres on British broadcaster ITV, starring Phil Daniels (Quadrophenia) and Shirley Cheriton (EastEnders). The series is created and written by Jeremy Burnham and Trevor Ray (Children Of The Stones).
The first episode of the science fiction series Man From Atlantis airs on NBC, starring Patrick Duffy and Belinda J. Montgomery. Victor Buono (Batman) and Dee Wallace Stone (E.T.) guest star. This is the beginning of Man From Atlantis’ single season as a weekly hour-long TV series, following on from four TV movies that had already aired earlier in 1977.
CBS airs the second episode of the TV adaptation of Logan’s Run. Angela Cartwright guest stars.
For the third time, Space Shuttle Enterprise separates from the back of a Boeing 747 flying at nearly 25,000 feet above the dry lake bed landing strips at Edwards Air Force Base in California. With astronauts Fred Haise and Gordon Fullerton aboard, Enterprise safely glides to her third safe landing at Edwards. This is the last of the test landings to leave the aerodynamic tail cone over Enterprise’s “anatomically correct” (but nonfunctional) main engines; the remaining Approach & Landing test flights will test the aerodynamics of an orbiter as it would return from space with those engines exposed.
The third episode of Filmation’s Saturday morning science fiction series Space Academy airs on CBS. Something is causing everyone at Space Academy to vanish, occasionally in mid-sentence.
The 457th episode of Doctor Who airs on BBC1. The Rutans, shapeshifting mortal enemies of the Sontarans, appear for the first and only time in the original series.
NASA’s Viking 2 lander confirms a surprising finding first detected in black-and-white images just days earlier: Mars has naturally occurring frost. Scientists try to determine, from images alone, if the frost forms from condensation due to overnight cold (as on Earth), or through some other atmospheric mechanism. But the finding does confirm enough moisture in the atmosphere to condense on the Martian surface, decades before surface water is confirmed on the red planet.