The Rescue Of Athena One

The Six Million Dollar ManAll eyes are on NASA’s next mission, Athena One, the first flight of a female astronaut. Steve Austin has been recruited to help train Major Kelly Wood for her flight, but their personalities clash on the ground. When her mission finally takes to the sky, an accident renders her co-pilot unconscious, necessitating a rescue mission involving the Skylab space station. Over Oscar’s objections, Steve himself volunteers to pilot the rescue vehicle, transporting a surgeon to Skylab to save the injured co-pilot while he and Major Wood conduct a risky spacewalk to repair a malfunctioning solar panel on Skylab itself. But exposure to the radiation of space may be causing Steve’s bionic implants to malfunction – and the lives of three people now depend on him flying a manual re-entry.

written by D.C. Fontana
directed by Lawrence Doheny
music by Oliver Nelson

The Six Million Dollar ManCast: Lee Majors (Steve Austin), Richard Anderson (Oscar Goldman), Farrah Fawcett Majors (Maj. Kelly Wood), Paul Kent (Flight Surgeon Wolf), John S. Ragin (Flight Director), Quinn Redeker (Capcom), Dean Smith (Major Osterman), Jules Bergman (himself), Patsy Sabline (1st Secretary), Toni Jannotta (2nd Secretary)

Notes: Call it stunt casting or nepotism, but Farrah Fawcett Majors was married to series star Lee Majors at the time this episode was filmed; they’d star together again in the premiere episode of Majors’ post-bionic hit series The Fall Guy. She would reprise this episode’s role in a later Six Million Dollar Man episode, in addition to guest The Six Million Dollar Manstarring in two completely different roles, all within the show’s first four seasons. Her other genre credits include Logan’s Run and Saturn 3. Bringing significantly more genre cred to this episode is writer D.C. Fontana, who was the story editor and a frequent writer on the original Star Trek and its animated revival, as well as stints on later shows like The Fantastic Journey and Logan’s Run. In other “inside baseball” casting, Jules Bergman was the science editor in the news department of ABC (the network which aired Six Million Dillar Man); among other things, he was heavily involved in ABC’s coverage of real space missions, including Apollo 13 (whose story would seem to be an inspiration for this episode). Austin’s The Six Million Dollar Manmoonwalk is described as having happened in January 1972. Stock footage from Apollo 9 and Apollo 15 are used in the spacewalk sequence (despite a mismatch in the spacesuits and helmets used in those missions), but the model sequences of Skylab apparently pre-date the launch of the actual Skylab station, which lost an entire “solar wing” during launch. Some footage from actual Skylab spacewalks appears during the second spacewalk sequence, as well as a famous photo of the heavily damaged Apollo 13 command module take in 1970 after the service module had separated for re-entry.

LogBook entry by Earl Green