Doctor Who: Spearhead From Space, Part 1

Doctor WhoThe 254th episode of Doctor Who airs on the BBC, the first of the series’ seventh season. Nicholas Courtney returns as the Brigadier, now a series regular, while Caroline John makes her first appearance as the Doctor’s companion, Liz Shaw. As of this story, the Doctor is exiled on Earth indefinitely by the Time Lords, unable to travel in space or time in the TARDIS.

This is Jon Pertwee’s first episode as the Doctor, and the first Doctor Who episode filmed in color. Due to a BBC studio strike, the story is filmed entirely on location, a rarity for Doctor Who.

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Apollo 20 hardware reassigned to Skylab

SkylabNASA formally cancels the planned Apollo 20 mission to the moon’s Copernicus crater in order to begin converting the upper stage of the mission’s Saturn V rocket into the Skylab space station, to be launched in the early 1970s. Construction of the Apollo command/service module and lunar module scheduled to fly this mission was halted before either vehicle was completed. The crew would have consisted of Stu Roosa, Paul Weitz and Jack Lousma; ironically, Weitz was transferred to the first Skylab crew, while Lousma was part of the second Skylab crew. Both later flew on shuttle missions.


ESSANASA and ESSA launch the ITOS satellite, also known as TIROS-M, a next-generation weather satellite intended to take over from the constellation of short-lived ESSA weather satellites. With a configuration that is, for the first time, significantly different from the TIROS/ESSA satellites, the TIROS-M design’s shakedown cruise is a short and bumpy one: after system failures force a shutdown of the satellite’s attitude control system, it is shut down in mid-1971.

The Move: Shazam

ShazamRegal Zonophone Records releases the second album by Birmingham rock group The Move, Shazam. (The album is simultaneously issued in the United States and Canada by A&M Records.) The final album with original lead singer Carl Wayne, Shazam is a bizarre collision of heavy metal and showtunes and standards without even the slightest hint of irony. After this album, Roy Wood takes over as the band’s leader.

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Star Trek: from syndication to… popularity?

Star TrekPicked up in syndication by Kaiser Broadcasting’s station group and other independent TV stations across America – often those with no newscast of their own – Star Trek sees its ratings skyrocket. The Kaiser stations run it directly opposite local and network newscasts at 6:00pm in most markets. Paramount Television runs an ad in Broadcast Magazine, claiming that New York City independent station WPIX has shown a 96% gain in ratings over the previous programming in the same time slot. In Los Angeles, KCOP’s nightly Star Trek reruns boost ratings 77%. It is from this culture – the nightly reruns of the 79 episodes reaching saturation point – that Star Trek fandom truly arises, gradually leading to an outcry for new material that gets Paramount’s attention later in the ’70s. With most of the cast battling typecasting, the conventions prove to be a lucrative draw for the show’s stars (and creator Gene Roddenberry, who becomes a popular speaker at conventions).

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Nimbus 4

NimbusNASA launches the Nimbus 4 satellite, designed to observe weather patterns from orbit and test new weather and climate detection technologies. Nimbus 4 is among the first satellites to test what will become known as global positioning system technology, capable of pinpointing ground-based targets with special equipment. The satellite begins to experience intermittent attitude control problems in 1971, but remains in at least partial service through 1980.

Apollo 13

Apollo 13The third planned lunar landing mission, Apollo 13, lifts off. Astronauts Jim Lovell and Fred Haise are scheduled to walk in the Fra Mauro region of the moon. Command module pilot Ken Mattingly falls victim to a medical condition, leaving NASA to make a rare substitution, rotating the backup crew’s command module pilot, Jack Swigert, to the prime crew prior to launch.

This mission is dramatized in both the We Interrupt This Mission episode of HBO’s 1998 series From The Earth To The Moon, as well as the 1995 movie Apollo 13.

Apollo 13: “Houston, we’ve had a problem”

Apollo 13Halfway between Earth and the moon, a fuel cell rupture in the Apollo 13 service module causes a massive explosion. The crew has to activate the landing module, Aquarius, to use it as a “lifeboat”; the oxygen and power reserves of the command module, Odyssey, have been compromised by the explosion and must be preserved for re-entry. The crew endures extreme cold and must ration consumables to survive. Fortunately, there’s enough fuel in Aquarius’ descent stage to put the combined vehicle on a free-return trajectory, looping it around the far side of the moon for an immediate return to Earth.

This mission is dramatized in both the We Interrupt This Mission episode of HBO’s 1998 series From The Earth To The Moon, as well as the 1995 movie Apollo 13.

Apollo 13 returns home

Apollo 13Having become the stuff of round-the-clock news coverage (though few media outlets bothered to cover any aspects of the mission before the emergency took place), the reactivated Apollo 13 command module Odyssey successfully reenters Earth’s atmosphere and returns its crew safely. (The lunar module, Aquarius, has been discarded in Earth orbit, where it eventually disintegrates, upon reentry; rather than landing on the moon, its fuel and air reserves have served the much more important function of keeping the crew alive.)

This mission is dramatized in both the We Interrupt This Mission episode of HBO’s 1998 series From The Earth To The Moon, as well as the 1995 movie Apollo 13.

Soyuz 9: two and a half weeks in space

The Soviet Union launches Soyuz 9, a long-endurance mission which becomes the longest space flight in human history to date, lasting 18 days. Biomedical measurements are taken of cosmonauts Andrian Nikolayev and Vitaly Sevastyanov throughout their two-and-a-half-week stay in orbit, and Soyuz 9 is seen as a trailblazer for the Soviet space program’s new focus of long-term crewed space stations. Both cosmonauts suffer from muscle loss during their flight, as the Soyuz capsule isn’t big enough to allow for exercise.