NAVSTARThe U.S. Air Force launches NAVSTAR-1, the first of a planned constellation of experimental satellites supporting the Department of Defense’s Global Positioning System project. Envisioned as a network of satellites providing extremely accurate location data for military purposes, the Global Positioning System will later grow to service civilian customers as well. Three other NAVSTAR satellites are launched in 1978 alone, and later satellites in the original NAVSTAR series will be launched betwen 1980 and 1985. Unlike the later, more advanced NAVSTAR II satellites of the 1990s, data from the original NAVSTAR constellation is restricted to the American military.

Voyaging blindly onward?

Voyager 1 (CG)NASA’s Voyager 1 space probe, en route to its first destination, develops a potentially mission-jeopardizing problem: the scan platform, which contains and aims many of Voyager’s scientific instruments, jams and becomes stuck in place. As Voyager 1 has yet to even reach Jupiter, this threatens to make it an expensive failure. Transmitting commands from Earth to give the scan platform a gentle three-axis workout, engineers at NASA manage to free the stuck instruments, salvaging Voyager 1’s mission to the outer planets and their moons. (A similar fault develops in Voyager 2 during its 1981 encounter with Saturn.)

Star Wars Sequel

Star WarsScience fiction writer Leigh Brackett, who is battling cancer, turns in her first and only draft of a screenplay simply titled “Star Wars Sequel” (later to be known as The Empire Strikes Back); this early draft includes the notation “Episode II”. Brackett, a golden-age SF writer hired by Lucas to help him generate ideas for the second film, loses her battle with cancer soon afterward, and the screenplay is revamped significantly before shooting, though the finished movie will retain her writing credit.

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Star Wars: Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye

Splinter Of The Mind's EyeSplinter Of The Mind’s Eye, the first print fiction follow-up to George Lucas’ Star Wars, is published by Ballantine Books. Written by Alan Dean Foster – who had ghost-written the novelization of Star Wars published under Lucas’ name – “Splinter” originates as a concept for a low-budget movie follow-up in the event that the movie bombs. By the time of its publication, it’s readily apparent to all that the movie has succeeded, and that a sequel will be coming, leaving “Splinter”‘s status in the storyline uncertain. The cover artwork is by Ralph McQuarrie, whose pre-production illustrations were of vital importance during the making of the original movie.

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Soyuz 28

Soyuz 28The Soviet Union launches the Soyuz 28 mission, the first manned flight in its Interkosmos series of international space missions. Cosmonaut Vladimír Remek is the first Czech in space, as well as the first space traveler not born in the Soviet Union or the United States; along with Soyuz 28 mission commander Alexei Gubarev, Remek visits the Salyut 6 space station for several days, though is presence is purely political showmanship; Remek later reveals that he had few actual functions to perform during the flight. Soyuz 28 spends a total of nearly eight days in space before returning to Earth.

Landsat 3

LandsatNASA launches Landsat 3, the latest in a constellation of satellites derived from the design of the experimental Nimbus weather satellites. This is the last Landsat to use the Nimbus framework, and the last to be managed exclusively by NASA; Landsat 3 remains in service through 1983.

Don’t Panic

Hitchhiker's Guide To The GalaxyWith the BBC giving his creation a late-night time slot indicating that they don’t really know what to do with it, Douglas Adams bursts onto the scene with the premiere of his radio series The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. Another attempt at mixing comedy and science fiction, Adams’ densely-worded style of wit catches on with an audience that’s never heard anything like it before. Hitchhiker’s Guide goes on to conquer nearly every medium exposed to it in the years to come.

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