An international space station?

Skylab-SalyutWith planning already well underway for the Apollo-Soyuz mission which won’t take place until 1975, NASA commissions a study from McDonnell Douglas to explore the feasibility of a follow-up to the international space mission, possibly involving joining the backup of the Skylab space station (known as “Skylab B”) and a yet-to-be-launched Soviet Salyut space station at some point in the latter half of the 1970s, effectively creating a joint international space station. Although the study goes so far as to specify issues of concern regarding the structure of the two stations and their respective standard atmospheric pressures, the recommendations are shelved pending the outcome of the Apollo-Soyuz flight. Significant political developments in the late 1970s will prevent the idea of an international station from moving forward for at least a quarter century.

Logan’s Run

Logan's RunThe MGM movie Logan’s Run premieres, starring Michael York and Jenny Agutter, and based on the science fiction novel of the same name by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. Set in an unspecified future, Logan’s Run depicts a world where citizens of a domed society must be euthanized at the age of 30 (21 in the original novel), supposedly to alleviate overpopulation; those who try to avoid this fate are labeled runners, to be pursued by armed Sandmen. Logan is a Sandman who finds himself running as his 30th birthday approaches. A television version follows in 1977, though without any of the movie’s cast.

Star Wars vs. Battlestar

Battlestar Galactica20th Century Fox files a lawsuit against Hollywood rival Universal Pictures over Universal’s upcoming made-for-TV science fiction saga Battlestar Galactica, which 20th Century Fox contends is a copy of its theatrical smash hit Star Wars. Specificially, the studio behind Star Wars claims that the television series infringes on the script for Star Wars, and requests an injunction to bring production to a halt and keep ABC from airing it. The first decision in the case won’t happen until 1980, by which time Battlestar Galactica will already have ended its TV run.

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Voyager 2’s mission, should it choose to accept it…

Voyager 2Following a communications blackout scare in April 1978, JPL uploads an autonomous command sequence to the Voyager 2 unmanned space probe, which would allow the spacecraft to carry out a self-guided mission to Jupiter and Saturn, the results of which would automatically be transmitted to Earth even if Voyager 2 can receive no further instructions from Earth. Due to the command storage limitations of Voyager 2’s onboard computer, this automatic backup mission plan makes no allowances for pictures of Jupiter, saving that capability for Saturn instead. In the event that Voyager 2 can no longer hear commands from Earth, the extended mission to Uranus and Neptune would be forfeited in favor of “minimum science return” from Jupiter and Saturn.

Dragon’s Lair

Dragon's LairThe ongoing race to improve arcade game graphics takes a sudden turn with the introduction of the first laserdisc-driven game to hit arcades, Dragon’s Lair. Featuring animation by former Disney protege Don Bluth, and a branching structure that depends heavily on players performing the right actions at just the right times, Dragon’s Lair is rigid in game play, but breathtaking in beauty; most arcade operators set the price for a single game at 50 cents just to offset the cost of the machine – and players gladly wait in line just to watch others guide Dirk the Daring through the castle.

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The changing climate

EarthA leading NASA climate scientist, Dr. James E. Hansen, addresses the United States Congress with a warning: the past five months of 1988, the hottest months in the history of weather records, are the beginning of a dangerous trend in Earth’s climate history, and studies conducted by experts show that the cause is increasing man-made pollution. Though Hansen’s claims will continue to be debated for decades (while only slow progress is made in the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy in that same time), the five-month period in question will not be the last consecutive stretch of rising worldwide temperatures.

International Space Station narrowly avoids cancellation

Space Station FreedomDespite plans having recently been expanded with international partnerships, including the Russian space program, the International Space Station comes within a single vote of being cancelled altogether in the United States House of Representatives. The measure to cancel the program is added to NASA’s authorization bill, which comes up for an annual vote; the measure is brought to the House floor by Indiana Democratic Rep. Tim Roemer and New Jersey Republican Rep. Richard Zimmer. Opposition to the space station comes in the form of budget concerns (the $9,000,000,000 already run up in research and construction is more than the total NASA expected to spend when it was directed to build, launch, and staff the station during the Reagan administration). Opponents of the station keep up their attempts to cancel it, however; a vote is later held for a bill that would strip NASA of station funding, effectively ending the program, and that vote also fails. The program survives by a wider margin in a later Senate vote as well. The same session of Congress does prove to be the end of another major scientific endeavour, the Superconducting Supercollider project already under construction in Texas.

Doctor Who: The Sound Of Drums

Doctor WhoThe 738th episode of Doctor Who (the 40th since the series’ revival) airs on BBC1. Guest starring John Barrowman and John Simm (Life On Mars), this is the second part of a three-part season finale reintroducing the Master, the Doctor’s rival Time Lord from the classic series. This episode offers the first glimpse of the Time Lords – in full classic series regalia – since the beginning of the new Doctor Who series.

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Jackie Lane, actress, dies

Jackie Lane as Dodo in Doctor WhoFormer actress Jackie Lane, who portrayed the first Doctor’s companion, Dodo Chaplet, in the third season of Doctor Who opposite William Hartnell, dies at the age of 79. One of the actresses originally considered for the role of Susan, the Doctor’s granddaughter, at the beginning the series, Ms. Lane wasn’t offered a role until the show entered its third season. The character of Dodo was rather abruptly introduced at the end of part four of The Massacre, and then is not seen again after the end of part 4 of The War Machines, presumably having decided to stay on Earth in her native time period, though the character’s fate is never specified; in real life, her contract was allowed to expire with no attempt made to keep her in the series. Burned by that experience, she retired from acting and became an agent, representing fellow Doctor Who stars Tom Baker and Janet Fielding during that phase of her career. Though she appeared in a handful of DVD bonus features covering her time on Doctor Who, she chose to stay out of the convention ecosystem, resisting offers to make public appearances.