Someday, My (Space)ship Or Space Shuttle Will Sail

The year: 1981. Pac-Man fever has incurably spread across the country. Both Mork and Mindy are still on the air. There are still pitched Battles of the Network Stars being fought on a yearly basis. The Sony Walkman has been on the market for a little under two years.

Oh, and Space Shuttle Columbia just blasted off for the very first time a couple of days ago, and is going to land very soon.

Now nearly six years since the last Space Shuttle lifted off, it’s almost unimaginable that a TV network would devote 3+ hours of wall-to-wall coverage to a perfectly ordinary Shuttle landing…except that this was the first time that a Shuttle returning from orbit ever came in for a landing. Every American space mission before this sunny April day in 1981 had ended with a splashdown in an ocean. But not this one.
[Via] Golden Pacific Media

It’s a slice of history, like a time machine: the first manned American space flight in six years was a big deal. And while it had taken longer to get the Space Shuttle airborne – on a scale of years – due to technical delays on the bleeding edge of new technologies, it had finally taken to the sky, something that looked more like a space fighter from a movie than it looked like a metal can with windows.

And perhaps most bittersweet of all, it had yet to let anyone down. The promises, made throughout the ‘70s ever since the Nixon administration had signed off on the Shuttle’s basic design, of routine, weekly flights to orbit, of a massive space station built by the 1990s that would be a stepping stone to the rest of the solar system…none of them had been broken yet. The reality of getting Columbia ready for her second flight hadn’t set in yet.

Nobody knew how difficult or costly it would be…or, just a few years later, how dangerous, as NASA tried to fly its fleet of Shuttles more and more frequently.

I remember watching the landing coverage at a friend’s house, the site of a spring break sleepover. He was ready to fire up the Atari, or go outside and kick a ball, and I wasn’t ready to budge. Like other budding space geeks who had grown up in a decade during which American astronauts had simply stopped going to space for years on end, it had all been building up to this – the lovingly illustrated National Geographic issue devoted to telling us what would happen “when the Space Shuttle finally flies”, the fleet of die-cast metal Space Shuttles that circled above the surface of the Earth (in my pockets), the plastic model kits of a non-fictional spacecraft that had never gotten around to flying…
Space Shuttle
(And yes, each one is actually a specific shuttle, in the order that I got them as a kid, and as such is sitting next to its name. The one with the tail cover is the Enterprise.)

For just a moment, the future was bright.

As of March 2017, we are now in a longer gap between spaceflights launched from American soil than the gap between the final Apollo mission (1975’s international Apollo-Soyuz Test Project flight) and the first Shuttle launch. When the next crew of astronauts blasts off from the U.S., whether they’re aboard NASA’s Orion, or SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, the Boeing CST-100 Starliner, or something else, here’s hoping that my kids get that same sense of wonder – even if it’s a similar kind of naïve, momentary wonder – as I got from watching this: a moment where, in the future, anything could happen.

Wings

Do You Remember Wings For The Atari 2600?

Wings was an 1983 game intended to be released on the Atari 2600. I say intended as while you might remember seeing the TV ad online – it was never released. Programmed by Stuart Ross for CBS Electronics. The Video Game Crash of ’83 scuttled it’s release. I have to say that judging by the television commercial it looks to have been rather in-depth.

[Via] Retro Commercial Forever

As you could see from the TV ad. You would have had to keep an eye on the various gauges of your aircraft. Power, Altitude, Airspeed, Fuel, in addition to the Compass, Radar, and Artificial Horizon.
Wings - Gauges

Wings was designed to be played using the Booster Grip. A device that would slip over your standard joystick. It would plug into the 2600 unit and give a player two buttons to operate. One button would control the engine throttle with the second button required to engage your weapons system. However I can’t say whether the third button – the one on the base of the joystick would have any use.
booster-grip-atari-2600-cbs-electronics

As was pointed out in the ad, the game had the addition of RAM Plus, which is how it was able to include so many features. RAM Plus was an additional chip on the cartridge board that would give the 2600 game more memory. Letting Stuart add those extra bells and whistles.

[Via] hyperspinbrasil

Here is an excerpt of an interview with Stuart Ross from Scott Stilphen of Digital Press.
“The game was basically finished (although marketing wanted clouds added…which were never implemented). We were about 2 weeks from having Wings ROMS manufactured when CBS pulled the plug. They even had some promotional material ready (hats and scarves), as well as a TV spot!”

Definitely make sure to follow that link to the full interview on DP for more about Wings. Furthermore when you hop on over you will get to see a bit of awesome behind the scenes photos. Of the development of not just Wings but Tunnel Runner. As well as the RAM Plus chips and even some of the merchandise Ross mentioned in that quote!

While the game was shelved before release – two prototypes have surfaced. Back in 2004 the prototypes were found and while buggy you could at least get a feel for what the finished product would have been like. Moreover if you would care to try the game for yourself, you can locate it on the Internet Archive!

What about other flight simulators for the Atari 2600 other than Wings?


I definitely wish that Stuart’s game could have seen the light of day – that it could have been completed. On the other hand I don’t think we should forget the most challenging flight simulator for the Atari 2600. Released in 1983 by Activision and programmed by Steve Kitchen was the amazing Space Shuttle: A Journey into Space. A game that required an overlay for the 2600 unit itself as all switches were used during gameplay!
space-shuttle-overlay-atariage

Seriously. Check out the instructions for flying the Space Shuttle – courtesy of AtariAge!

Overlay and Manual Images courtesy of AtariAge.

Overlay and Manual Images courtesy of AtariAge.


space-shuttle-manual-2-atariage

[Via] High Retro Game Lord

Jim Beam Space Shuttle Decanter

Only shortly behind “peanut butter and chocolate” on the list of things that naturally go together must be “drinking alcohol and piloting the space shuttle”.

space-shuttle-bottle

I ran across this odd item while out shopping last weekend, and a bit of Googling revealed it to be a Jim Beam Space Shuttle Decanter. Flying the Space Shuttle has to be one of the most dangerous and stressful jobs of all time, so this is one case where I completely support drinking on the job. I don’t know if the Space Shuttle has cup holders installed or not, but if not I believe it should. Astronauts deserve to wind down with a nice glass of Jim Beam just like the rest of us.

Space Shuttle Pepsi Can

Commemorative 1st Landing Space Shuttle Pepsi Can

In honor of the landing of the last Space Shuttle (moment of silence), prolific Retroist Image Pool member, Neato Coolville, has posted images of the commemorative can that Pepsi put out to honor the 1st Space Shuttle Landing. As you can see, the Space Shuttle Pepsi Can is pretty spectacular.

My family was a Coca-Cola family, but when special cans appeared, I was all over them. I remember this can from when I was a kid for two things. The graphic of course, but also the words at the bottom. Edwards A.F.B. CA Spring 1981 I am not sure why, but I would fixate on those words.

Another thing I probably find endearing about this can is how it reminds me of when the Cola Wars went into space. Back in the early eighties, Coke was working on a can that astronauts could use in space. Pepsi heard about this development and made their own can. From what I remember, neither of the cans were very received by astronauts aboard STS 51-F mission. NASA concluded that carbonated beverages might not be worthwhile to haul into space. The Smithsonian has wonderful photos of the Pepsi can. It is an impressive apparatus and pretty different than the Coke can they sent up.

I cannot find footage of the cans in action, but did find this wonderful Space Shuttle themed Pepsi commercial from the era. Sadly it does not feature the Space Shuttle Pepsi Can.

Warch this Space Shuttle themed Pepsi Commercial