Salyut 7’s plunge to Earth

Salyut 7The last of the Salyut space stations from the heyday of the Soviet space program, Salyut 7 tumbles into the Earth’s atmosphere, its supply of fuel exhausted. (No cosmonauts have occupied Salyut 7 since 1986.) With the large Kosmos 1686 expansion still docked, most of Salyut 7 disintegrates in the atmosphere, though some debris is scattered over Argentina. Salyut 7 lasted nearly nine years in orbit.

Space Station Fred

Space Station FreedomAt the insistence of Congress, NASA submits a significant redesign of the long-overdue and over-budget Space Station Freedom for approval. Where previous design changes tried to retain a massive “dual keel” allowing for experiment modules and other activities that could be performed a safe distance away from the station’s habitation modules, the new Space Station Freedom clusters all of its modules together in one place and removes the dual keel structure permanently. Scoffing at the truncated new design, critics refer to the newly-submitted proposal as “Space Station Fred” instead of “Space Station Freedom”.


Space ShuttleSpace Shuttle Atlantis lifts off on a mission to deploy the orbiting Gamma Ray Observatory satellite. When the high-gain antenna fails to deploy on GRO, the first unplanned spacewalk since 1985 is conducted, with two of the astronauts manually releasing the antenna. Manning Atlantis for nearly six days are Commander Steven Nagel, Pilot Kenneth Cameron, and mission specialists Jerry Ross, Jay Apt and Linda Godwin.


Space ShuttleSpace Shuttle Discovery lifts off on an eight-day mission to delivery both classified and unclassified Defense Department payloads into Earth orbit. Aboard the shuttle for this flight are Commander Michael Coats, Pilot Blaine Hammond, and mission specialists Guion Bluford, Gregory Harbaugh, Richard Hieb, Donald McMonagle and Charles Veach.

Star Wars: Heir To The Empire

Heir To The EmpireAfter much pre-publicity billing it as – at long last – the Lucasfilm-authorized continuation of the storyline, Timothy Zahn’s novel “Star Wars: Heir To The Empire” is released by Bantam Books. Introducing Grand Admiral Thrawn, Talon Karrde and Mara Jade, among other characters later regarded by fans as mission-critical to the overall Star Wars storyline, the book also introduces the former Imperial capitol world Coruscant (a rare bit of naming that originates in non-movie media and is later carried over to “official” media). The first of a trilogy of novels, “Heir” forces its way to the top of the bestseller lists.

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The Flash: Trial Of The Trickster

The FlashThe 22nd episode of the superhero series The Flash, based on the DC Comics character, airs on CBS, starring John Wesley Shipp and Amanda Pays. Mark Hamill (Star Wars, Batman: The Animated Series) guest stars in what is intended to merely be a lead-in to a second season, though CBS does not pick The Flash up for a second year, making this the final episode. John Wesley Shipp will return as both this series’ version of the Flash and as Barry Allen’s father in the much longer-lived 21st century series based on the character.

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Soyuz TM-12: the first British astronaut

Soyuz TM-12Helen Sharman becomes the first British national in space, flying aboard Soyuz TM-12 to the Soviet space station Mir. Making her flight in a seat bought and paid for by a consortium of British commercial interests, Sharman tags along with cosmonauts Anatoly Artsebarsky and Sergei Krikalev, and she spends just a week in orbit before returning with Soyuz TM-13 cosmonaut Toktar Aubakirov. Artsebarsky and Krikalev remain aboard Mir for what is initially planned to be a five-month stay, though a shake-up in the flight schedule forces mission planners to ask Krikalev to stay aboard Mir even after Artsebarsky returns to Earth, resulting in Krikalev remaining on Mir for 10 months, not returning home until 1992 – at which point the Soviet Union will have ceased to exist.