Salyut 6

Salyut 6The Soviet Union launches the redesigned Salyut 6 space station, which will remain in service for five years. With six years of experience in building and operating space stations, Soviet space engineers embark on a rethink of station construction, opting for a more modular approach with Salyut 6: the new station has docking ports fore and aft, with additional station modules and automated resupply vehicles already on the drawing board. The dual docking ports also allow for multiple Soyuz capsules to be berthed at Salyut 6, making larger crews possible.

Star Wars tops the charts

Star Wars and Other Galactic FunkProduced in the wake of Star Wars mania, Meco Menardo’s disco cover of John Williams’ music from Star Wars tops the Billboard Hot 100 chart for two weeks. A shortened, radio-friendly single is the song certified as #1, although the album version (titled Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk) is an extended suite lasting over 15 minutes and covering most of the movie’s major music themes. Meco would continue to ride the Star Wars train, disco-style, for years to come.

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Doctor Who: The Invisible Enemy, Part 2

Doctor WhoThe 459th episode of Doctor Who airs on BBC1. This episode introduces a character who becomes a major new addition to the show’s mythology, the robot dog K-9. With actor John Leeson lending his voice to the radio-control prop, it might seem as though Doctor Who is trying to steal some of Star Wars‘ droid mojo, but in fact the episode was filmed months before Star Wars premiered.

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Soyuz 25

Soyuz 25The Soviet Union launches Soyuz 25 into Earth orbit, with cosmonauts Vladimir Kovalyonok and Valery Ryumin set to become the first occupants of the new Salyut 6 space station. However, the crew is unable to successfully dock Soyuz 25 to Salyut 6, and after a fifth attempt to dock, the mission is aborted and the cosmonauts are recalled to Earth due to concerns about the remaining fuel in their vehicle. As a result, Soyuz 25 is the last all-rookie Soviet space crew until the 1990s.

Enterprise Approach & Landing Test 4

EnterpriseSpace Shuttle Enterprise makes its fourth free-flight after separating from its modified Boeing 747 carrier aircraft, gliding to a safe landing at Edwards Air Force Base’s dry lake bed runway. For the first time, Enterprise’s engines are left exposed, adding to the drag experienced by the gliding shuttle rather than masking the engines with a protective cover. This more accurately simulates the aerodynamics of a shuttle returning from space. Enterprise’s crew for the two-and-a-half-minute flight consists of Joe Engle and Richard Truly.

The Video Computer System

Atari VCSThe Atari Video Computer System, model number CX2600, hits retail stores in the United States, primarily through a deal with Sears (which has a contractual right to repackage it as the Sears Video Arcade). Packaged with two joysticks, a pair of paddles, and the two-player-only tank game Combat, the VCS isn’t quite a runaway success, with only a quarter million units selling by Christmas 1977.

More about the Atari VCS in Phosphor Dot Fossils

The Space Shuttle’s ambitious schedule

Space ShuttleNASA prepares a preliminary schedule of Space Shuttle launches, covering the years 1979-1982 (and assuming the shuttle will be ready to launch in 1979). The ambitious schedule (which also assumes, in line with current planning, that the test orbiter Enterprise will be upgraded to spaceworthiness) includes almost-monthly flights from 1979 onward to deploy communications and weather satellites already on the drawing board, as well as frequent science missions with the cargo-bay-mounted Spacelab. On only the second test flight, the schedule has OV-102 (yet to be named Columbia) slated for a mission to the abandoned early 1970s space station Skylab, using a teleoperator retrieval system which also exists only on paper. While many of the schedule’s goals will be met, the delay in the shuttle program will be longer than NASA anticipates at this time.

Electric Light Orchestra: Out Of The Blue

ELOElectric Light Orchestra‘s seventh album, Out Of The Blue, is released, featuring the singles “Sweet Talkin’ Woman”, “Turn To Stone” and “Mr. Blue Sky”. Perhaps reflecting the now-widespread fascination with science fiction, this is the first ELO album to depict the band’s logo as a giant spaceship, a theme which is carried over into the extravagant set for the world tour that takes up ELO’s schedule for the next year.

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Viking 2 at Deimos

DeimosNASA’s Viking 2 orbiter closes to within 40 miles of Mars’ small outermost moon, Deimos, the first spacecraft to visit the tiny moon up close. Deimos is found to be cratered and irregularly shaped, confirming the likelihood that it is an asteroid that once strayed close enough to Mars to fall into orbit.

No comet for Voyagers

VoyagerNASA announces that Voyagers 1 and 2 may be in a unique position to study the newly-discovered Comet Kohler 1977 XIV, discovered just days before Voyager 1’s launch. Both Voyagers are expected to pass Comet Kohler at a distance of a little over 1 astronomical unit (AU), equivalent to the distance between Earth and the Sun, in November, and the possibility of examining the comet with their onboard instruments is proposed. This plan is eventually abandoned, since the comet will track near the sun, direct exposure to which could harm the television tube cameras installed aboard each Voyager. The exploration of comets with robotic spacecraft will have to wait until the 1980s.