slice of life

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 December, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 December, 2004, 12:00am

From the South China Morning Post this week in 1968

Their epic voyage around the moon drawing to a close, astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders prepared to face their last major hazard - a flaming re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere.

The Apollo 8 spacemen had marked the greatest 'leap forward' in the 10-year history of the US space programme, with a 20-hour orbit only 60 nautical miles from the surface of the moon.

The special heat shield protecting the men in the command module cabin would have to withstand temperatures in excess of 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,760 degrees Celsius) as it returned to Earth at an expected 36,219 feet per second.

Earthbound enthusiasts were waiting for the astronauts' sixth and final live television broadcast from space. Previous transmissions had given millions of viewers an inside view of the spaceship and provided never-before-seen pictures of Earth and the moon from tens of thousands of miles out in space.

If Apollo 8 successfully survived its high-speed re-entry, and if February's Apollo 9 mission was successful, America could attempt a manned lunar landing on the following flight, Apollo 10, in April or May.

However, the first landing mission was not expected until Apollo 11 in June or July.

President Ho Chi Minh, in a New Year's message to the American people, declared that for the United States the only honourable solution to the Vietnam War was to withdraw all troops and those of her allies from South Vietnam. The message, addressed to the 'American friends who oppose the US imperialist war of aggression in Vietnam', was distributed by the North Vietnam news agency.

The US should let the South Vietnamese settle their own affairs without foreign interference and in accordance with the Viet Cong National Liberation Front's political programme, President Ho emphasised.

A large fishing junk from China was intercepted by Marine Police at Stanley.

It had a hole in its hull and eventually sank near Stanley Beach.

All the immigrants were taken to Stanley police station and later transferred to Marine Police Headquarters for inquiries.

The 25 men, 10 women and six children were fisherfolk from Luk Hoi Fung County in Swatow. They made their escape bid in the dead of night.

It took them two days to reach the colony. One of their members was lost at sea.

Almost 24 hours after a report by the US Atomic Energy Commission, China announced it had successfully tested another hydrogen bomb.

The nuclear device was set off at the Lop Nor testing grounds in Sinkiang Province. The bomb was exploded in the air, but it was not clear whether it was dropped by an aircraft or fired from a tower. Peking simply said the device was tested 'over her west region'.

Chairman Mao Zedong turned 75 and received the usual daily eulogies from the nation.

Otherwise the birthday of the chairman, who spent two-thirds of his life waging revolution in the name of the communist cause, passed quietly.

Radio Peking came closest to celebrating the occasion by eulogising Shaoshan County 'the birthplace of our most respected Chairman Mao, the reddest sun in our earth'.

Betty Loh Tih, 33, the well-known Mandarin film star, was found unconscious in her flat in Kowloon Tong. She was rushed to Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where she was certified dead.

A police spokesman said two small pillboxes had been taken from a room for analysis. Foul play was not suspected. Her brother said she often took pills when she had trouble sleeping.

Lord Airlie, a fiery Scots nobleman who once ordered an entire Black Watch battalion to take off their kilts because he suspected some were wearing underpants, died in Dundee.

The Earl, father-in-law of Princess Alexandra, had been ill for some time. He died at his home, Airlie Castle, aged 75.