Space: 1999 finale

Space: 1999Despite appearing to be the right show in the right place at the right time, Space: 1999 ends its two-season run with an episode called The Dorcons, guest starring ex-Doctor Who Patrick Troughton. Though it would seem to be the prime contender to satisfy Star Wars-generated sci-fi mania on the small screen, the show’s run has already ended thanks to a combination of cast members’ demands for raises and creative control, and the slowly unraveling marriage of producers Gerry and Sylvia Anderson.

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Saving Skylab?

Skylab and ShuttleNASA and its contractors mull over a report outlining an ambitious (and, considering the continuous delays to the first launch of the Space Shuttle program, overly optimistic) plan to reactivate and occupy the Apollo-era space station Skylab for use by shuttle crews. The plan involves outfitting the ailing station with new solar power panels and equipment, and performing repairs to make it habitable for future astronauts. Despite the best-laid plans, however, the shuttle’s first launch comes after Skylab tumbles back through Earth’s atmosphere.

Voyagers depart the inner solar system

VoyagerAt a distance of nearly 60,000,000 miles from Earth, NASA’s Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft cross the orbit of Mars as the twin space probes continue their outbound race toward Jupiter. Moving at 13 miles per second, Voyager 1 will overtake its identical twin, Voyager 2, at the end of 1977, with both spacecraft expected to reach Jupiter in 1979. From here, they will plunge through the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, though fears of damage occurring in this part of space have been allayed by the successful asteroid belt passage of Pioneers 10 and 11 in the early 1970s.

The further adventures of Luke Skywalker

Star WarsA series of story conferences begin between Star Wars writer/director George Lucas and science fiction writer Leigh Brackett, the first work toward shaping the storyline for an anticipated (but still untitled) Star Wars sequel film. Lucas has brought Brackett on board to contribute new ideas, but she will only submit a first draft before succumbing to cancer. The conferences continue through early December; the eventual product of these early story meetings will be 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back.

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The early bird gets an empty box

Star WarsCaught completely off-guard by the seemingly unstoppable runaway success of Star Wars, whose toy license it signed on for earlier in the year, toy manufacturer Kenner does something desperate and unprecedented: it sells a mostly-empty box (contents: the Force?) called the Star Wars Early Bird Kit, containing stickers, pictures, and a card to mail off to receive four figures – Luke, Princess Leia, R2-D2 and Chewbacca – by mail sometime between “February and May 1978.” The delay is needed to ramp up production on the figures, which will also be available at retail in 1978. To the surprise of everyone, including Kenner executive Bernard Loomis, who devised the Early Bird Kit, the result is a runaway sales success story.

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