Voyager… to Mars!

VoyagerFollowing up on preliminary studies assuming almost-Earthlike conditions, NASA commences work on a major robotic interplanetary landing mission called Voyager, which will use a Saturn IB rocket to send an orbiter with two landers to Mars. But NASA is doing so without much help from its usual interplanetary think-tank, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, whose scientists warn NASA that the latest astronomical data suggests a significantly thinner atmosphere and lower atmospheric pressure than the scenario for which NASA is designing its vehicles. As the complexity involved in creating self-guided landers with on-board laboratories increases, contractors begin to insist that only a Saturn V will do; since all Saturn V boosters are currently in reserve for Apollo lunar missions, NASA pushes the Voyager mission back into the 1970s.

Altair 8800

Altair 8800The January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics Magazine goes on sale days before Christmas 1974, with its cover article heralding the arrival of the MITS Altair 8800 microcomputer. The first open-architecture microcomputer, the Altair is available in kit form or fully assembled, with 4K of RAM built around an Intel 8080 processor. Expecting to sell a few hundred kits, MITS founder Ed Roberts finds himself flooded with so many orders that he has to hire additional workers to start catching up with the backlog of purchases, with the time from order to delivery stretching into months. This is the beginning of the modern computer revolution, with companies other than MITS producing peripherals and software for the Altair. The most notable of these third-party vendors is a newly-formed company called Microsoft – a two-man operation founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen – which produces a working version of the BASIC language for the Altair.

Galileo is go for VEEGA

VEEGAAfter the cancellation of the Centaur liquid-fueled propulsion module – considered too risky for use aboard the space shuttle, all aspects of which are now under a wide-ranging government review after the Challenger disaster – NASA/JPL’s Galileo Jupiter probe is to begin undergoing modifications for a long, looping trajectory developed by Dr. Roger Diehl and dubbed “VEEGA” – Venus/Earth/Earth Gravity Assist. (Another nickname for this new trajectory, the Solar Cruiser, doesn’t stick in acronym-happy NASA.) VEEGA will see Galileo taking an extra four years to reach Jupiter, getting gravity assists from the planets of the inner solar system during those additional years. Galileo must be modified because it was designed for outer solar system exploration, not exposure to solar heating and radiation within 1 AU of the sun. Since the primary high-gain antenna must be pointed away from Earth during some of this flight, NASA adds a medium-gain antenna to the spacecraft – a last-minute modification which will save the mission when the high-gain antenna fails to open on schedule. Galileo is scheduled for launch via space shuttle in 1989.

The Tomorrow People: The Origin Story – Part 5

The Tomorrow PeopleThe fifth episode of Roger Price’s reboot of his 1970s science fiction series The Tomorrow People is broadcast on ITV in the U.K. (and will appear later on Nickelodeon in North America), starring Kristian Schmid and Christian Tessier. Hugh Quarshie (Highlander, Star Wars Episode I) guest stars in the first season finale.

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Aquila: Energy Levels

AquilaThe fifth episode of children’s science fiction series Aquila premieres on BBC1, starring Ben Brooks and Craig Vye. The series is adapted by Andrew Norriss from his own novel of the same name.

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The Expanse: Remember The Cant and CQB

The ExpanseThe third and fourth episodes of the science fiction series The Expanse, based on the series of novels by James S.A. Corey (a pseudonym for writers Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham), is broadcast on cable channel Syfy. Kenneth Welsh and Chad L. Coleman (The Orville) guest stars.

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