Skylab 2: mission accomplished

SkylabHaving repaired and secured the damaged Skylab over the course of three spacewalks, the space station’s first three-man crew leaves the station and returns to Earth after 28 days in space, experiencing gravity after nearly a month of zero-G.

The first Skylab crew’s stay in space sets a new record, twice as long as the previous longest American manned spaceflight, Gemini 7 in 1965.

Salyut 5

Salyut 5The Soviet Union launches the two-ton Salyut 5 space station into Earth orbit. Salyut 5 is the final Soviet space station to utilize the Almaz military station architecture originally specified in the 1960s (at which time Almaz was developed to counter the perceived threat from the never-launched American Manned Orbiting Laboratory). The station carries Earth surveillance equipment and a return capsule for later retrieval of experiments and film. Salyut 5 remains in orbit for a little over a year, visited by only two crews.


CharonAstronomer James Christy, conducting observations of Pluto at the United States Naval Observatory, discovers a bulging shape present in some photos he’s taken of Pluto, but absent in others. Though the find meets with some skepticism, he has discovered the largest moon of Pluto, Charon, which has a mass of over 50% that of its parent body. Orbiting at only 11,000 miles from Pluto’s surface, Charon has a radius of 750 miles. Within 20 years, closer telescopic examination (including observations using the Hubble Space Telescope) confirm that Charon is separate from Pluto. Since the two bodies are relatively similar in mass, one doesn’t actually orbit the other; rather, they both orbit a center of mass – a barycenter – that lies close to, but not within, Pluto. Further observations in the 21st century lead to the unexpected discovery of four further satellites of Pluto.

James Horner, film composer, dies

James HornerA renowned film music composer whose early sci-fi works put him on the map, James Horner dies at the age of 61 in the crash of his private plane. After his early genre efforts for sci-fi and horror films produced by Roger Corman, Horner took on the daunting task of succeeding Jerry Goldsmith as the composer of the Star Trek film franchise at the age of 28 with Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (in which he also had a very brief on-screen cameo). Other major films followed: Krull, Aliens, Cocoon, Star Trek III, The Land Before Time, The Rocketeer, Apollo 13, Braveheart, Titanic, and Avatar, among many others. Mr. Horner was 61 at the time of his death.

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