Planet Earth

Planet EarthABC premieres the made-for-TV movie Planet Earth, starring John Saxon, Ted Cassidy, Diana Muldaur and Majel Barrett. Created and co-written by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, Planet Earth is the second attempt to build a series pilot around the story of astronaut Dylan Hunt, frozen in suspended animation and reawakened only after the fall of human civilization by an organization called PAX. For the second time, this does not result in a series pickup, though the story of Dylan Hunt will form the basis of Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda, a syndicated series produced in the early 2000s after Roddenberry’s death.

More about Gene Roddenberry’s 1970s pilot projects in the LogBook

Enterprise in drydock

EnterpriseConstruction begins on OV-101, a Space Shuttle intended for extensive atmospheric test flight and landings without ever going into space. Originally intended to bear the name Constitution, a letter-writing campaign by Star Trek fans convinces President Gerald Ford to request that NASA rename the first shuttle Enterprise. Much of the first shuttle’s structural details are simply dummy models of the correct shape and weight; her engines are never intended to fire. Though plans are drawn up to convert Enterprise into a space-worthy vehicle, they are never carried out: it’s deemed cheaper and faster to upgrade a structural test model of the shuttle instead.

Salyut 3: packin’ heat in orbit

Salyut 3The Soviet Union launches its third space station, again based on the Almaz military space station architecture. Salyut 3 remains in orbit for over half a year, and is eventually visited by the crews of Soyuz 14 and Soyuz 15, though the latter mission fails to dock. Despite international agreements already in place to prevent the militarization of space, Salyut 3 is the first armed space station, packing a non-steerable anti-aircraft gun (for defending the station, though from what is never made clear). Fortunately, the space war never happens and Salyut 3 is never forced to defend itself.

Soyuz 14

Soyuz 14The Soviet Union launches the Soyuz 14 mission, sending cosmonauts Yuri Artyukhin and Pavel Popovich to embark on a two-week stay aboard the Salyut 3 military space station. Though some medical science experiments are performed at Salyut 3, the majority of the crew’s time is taken up with observations of the Earth’s surface, essentially making Salyut 3 the first manned military surveillance satellite. Before leaving, the crew of two offloads supplies so that the new Salyut 3 crew can stay for several months.

Soyuz 15

Soyuz 15The Soviet space program continues with the launch of Soyuz 15, carrying cosmonauts Lev Dyomin and Gennadi Sarafanov. This is intended to be the second crew to occupy the Salyut 3 military space station, but spacecraft systems intended to automate the rendezvous and docking process fail. After manual dockings are attempted, the Soyuz vehicle is running low on fuel and the crew is recalled to Earth after only two days. (Trying to dodge questions about the nature of Salyut 3’s mission objectives, Soviet space authorities later claim that Soyuz 15 was never going to dock with the station.) No further crews are sent to board Salyut 3.

Leda

LedaAstronomer Charles Kowal discovers Leda, a tiny, previously undiscovered moon of Jupiter, using Mount Palomar Observatory’s telescope. With a radius of less than seven miles and an inclined orbit, Leda is the first Jovian moon discovered in over two decades, and is among the last to be discovered using ground-based telescopes in the 20th century.

Mariner 10, Mercury 2

Mercury by Mariner 10NASA’s unmanned space probe Mariner 10 makes its second pass of the planet Mercury, six months after its first flyby. This time Mariner passes under the planet’s south pole, getting the first views of that part of Mercury, but barely flying within 30,000 miles of the surface. Once again, following its encounter with Mercury, Mariner 10 slipped into a solar orbit that would bring it back to Mercury several months later.