27 June 1976

Air France Flight 139 (Tel Aviv-Athens-Paris) is hijacked en route to Paris by the PLO and redirected to Entebbe, Uganda.

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7 May 1976

The Honda Accord is officially launched.

The Honda Accord is a series of automobiles manufactured by Honda since 1976, best known for its four-door sedan variant, which has been one of the best-selling cars in the United States since 1989. The Accord nameplate has been applied to a variety of vehicles worldwide, including coupes, wagons, hatchbacks and a crossover.

The first generation Honda Accord was launched on 7 May 1976 as a three-door hatchback with 68 hp, a 93.7-inch wheelbase, and a weight of about 2,000 pounds. Japanese market cars claimed 80 PS JIS, while European and other export markets received a model without emissions control equipment; it claimed 80 PS as well but according to the stricter DIN norm. It was a platform expansion of the earlier Honda Civic at 4,125 mm long. To comply with recently enacted emission regulations enacted in Japan, the engine was fitted with Honda’s CVCC technology. The Accord sold well due to its moderate size and great fuel economy. It was one of the first Japanese sedans with features like cloth seats, a tachometer, intermittent wipers, and an AM/FM radio as standard equipment. In 1978 an LX version of the hatchback was added which came with air conditioning, a digital clock, and power steering. Until the Accord, and the closely related Prelude, power steering had not been available to cars under two litres. Japanese buyers were liable for slightly more annual road tax over the smaller Civic, which had a smaller engine.

On 14 October 1977, a four-door sedan was added to the lineup, and power went to 72 hp when the 1,599 cc EF1 engine was supplemented and in certain markets replaced by the 1,751 cc an EK-1 unit. In 1980 the optional two-speed semi-automatic transmission of previous years became a three-speed fully automatic gearbox a four-speed automatic transaxle was not used in the Accord until the 1983 model year. The North American versions had slightly redesigned bumper trim. Other changes included new grilles and taillamps and remote mirrors added on the four-door and the LX models. The CVCC badges were deleted, but the CVCC induction system remained.

In North America, the 1981 model year only brought detail changes such as new fabrics and some new color combinations. Nivorno Beige was replaced by Oslo Ivory. Dark brown was discontinued, as was the bronze metallic. A bit later in 1981 an SE model was added for the first time, with Novillo leather seats and power windows. Base model hatchbacks, along with the four-door, LX, and SE four-door, all received the same smaller black plastic remote mirror. The instrument cluster was revised with mostly pictograms which replaced worded warning lights and gauge markings. The shifter was redesigned to have a stronger spring to prevent unintentional engagement of reverse, replacing the spring-loaded shift knob of the 1976 to 1980 model year cars. By 1981 power for the 1.8 was down to a claimed 68 hp in North America.

16 March 1976

The British Prime Minister Harold Wilson resigns.

On 16 March 1976 Harold Wilson caused a political sensation when he announced he was to resign, just over two years into his fourth stint as Prime Minister, and five days after his 60th birthday. He had been Labour leader for 13 years and Prime Minister for nearly eight years.

As Prime Minister leading two Labour administrations between 1964 and 1970, Wilson was keen to bring about a modernisation of Britain’s economy and society. Under his leadership, the Labour governments introduced liberal social policies, including the abolition of capital punishment and the decriminalisation of homosexual acts in private between two men, and changed abortion law. Wilson returned as Prime Minister following the February 1974 election, forming a minority government, and then called another election in October 1974 at which he secured a majority of three. He achieved further social reforms during 1974-76 but had to wrestle with the problem of soaring inflation. It has been said by some that Wilson’s greatest achievement as Prime Minister was keeping British troops out of Vietnam.

Wilson’s resignation was unusual because, for most of his party and the general public, the announcement came ‘from out of the blue’, and was not prompted by any obvious health issues; Harold Macmillan had been the last prime minister to resign while in office, in October 1963, on the grounds of illness.

The unexpected nature of Wilson’s departure gave rise to various conspiracy theories, and a suspicion in some quarters that Wilson’s resignation was forced, for some secret reason. This blog post to mark the 40th anniversary of this event is not concerned with such theories – as always, our approach is to highlight the story as told through the public records.

Wilson announced his decision to Cabinet on the morning of 16 March 1976. In his Personal Minute to all members of the Cabinet he revealed that he had taken the decision to resign in March 1974. He stated:

20 July 1976

Viking 1 lands successfully lands on Mars.

Viking 1 was the first American spacecraft to touch the surface of Mars, and the first spacecraft ever to remain there for the long term. It followed a series of short-lived Soviet probes that either landed or crashed into the surface in the decade before.

Its successful landing on July 20, 1976, provided a window into climatic conditions on the red planet. From Viking 1’s perch on Chryse Planitia, the lander spent six years beaming pictures, information and even life experiments back to Earth. Its life results are still being debated today.

An ambitious project, scaled down

NASA originally planned to head to Mars with an ambitious program called Voyager not to be confused with the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes that eventually soared to the outer edges of the solar system.

The agency proposed to use the Saturn V rocket — once used to hoist astronauts to the moon – to send Voyager to Mars. An orbiter would circle above as a lander touched the surface, where it would remain on the surface for at least a Martian year to observe the changing seasons. Project costs were estimated to be as high as $2 billion in 1970s dollars.

“I guess our eyes were too big for the budget there,” said Edgar Cortright in a 1998 NASA oral history. He held a series of senior human spaceflight positions at NASA in the 1960s before becoming director of the Langley Research Center between 1968 and 1975.

“There was a money crunch at the time,” he added. “We were lucky to get the money to do Viking, and that was a struggle.”

The mission concept was scaled back to two orbiters and two landers, launching on smaller rockets and designed to stay on Mars for 90 days. NASA estimates the cost was about $1 billion for the entire Viking project.

Viking 1 launch and landing

Viking 1’s Titan III-E rocket roared to life Aug. 20, 1975, as the spacecraft set forth on its nearly 500-million-mile journey to Mars. Fully fueled, the orbiter-lander duo weighed about 7,800 pounds. Viking 1’s twin, Viking 2, went into space on Sept. 9, 1975.

Viking 1’s lander was supposed to touch down on Mars on July 4. But as the spacecraft drew closer to Mars and began taking pictures of the landing site, the Viking 1 team worried about the spacecraft’s chances of making it safely to the surface.

The prime landing site at Chryse was based on looking at Mariner 9 pictures, which were taken in lower resolution. Viking 1’s view of the site showed the opposite of what planners wanted: “a deeply incised river bed,” according to On Mars, a NASA History Office publication detailing the early Mars missions.

Complicating matters was the fact that the landing date of July 4, 1976, happened to coincide with the bicentennial celebrations of the United States’ founding. Viking 1 was supposed to be a part of that, but of course, safety needed to be the primary consideration.

Mission planners voted to extend Viking 1’s landing date until a more suitable landing site could be found. They debated between a few sites and voted on July 12 for a location in Chryse Planitia, about 365 miles  west of where the lander was supposed to go.

Viking 1’s orbit was adjusted on July 16, and the spacecraft touched down safely on July 20, 1976. On that day, only seven years before, man stood on the moon for the first time.

Six years of science observations

Each Viking mission was only supposed to last 90 days after landing, but the landers and orbiters actually lasted for years. Their images and data on Mars would define our view of the planet for the next couple of decades.

From orbit, the Vikings provided a window into Mars’ tumultuous past. They took pictures of volcanoes and also imaged ancient channels where floods may have roared in ancient history. The cameras peered closer at the vast Valles Marineris, a 2,500-mile rift across Mars’ equator, taking snapshots of landslide sites and craters.

As for the Viking 1 lander, it sent back its first image of the surface just moments after landing, and took thousands more for scientists to process over its lifetime. Besides a seismometer experiment that refused to deploy properly, and early problems with a sampler pin, the experiments on board the lander remained healthy through its last day of transmissions on Nov. 13, 1982.

Viking 1’s results showed scientists a few surprises. There were a lot of rock types at its landing site, indicating that they probably had different origins. Day-to-day weather conditions on Mars were usually consistent, although there were seasonal variations. Winds were higher speed during the day and tended to die down at night. The lander detected magnetic particles in the soil, although scientists could not fully describe what the soil was made up of.

These results were important as they hinted at what a human would experience when walking upon the Red Planet. Dust storms, radiation and weather conditions are all things that will need to be considered when humans choose to make the journey to Mars.

NASA’s Viking probes were the first ever to successfully set footpad on Mars in a powered landing. The Viking 1 lander set down in July 1976 and didn’t go silent until November 1982. Viking 2 landed in September 1976 and kept working until April 1980. Credit: NASA