Test-tube trees, a Soviet space baby and a dead pig on the French president’s helicopter: headlines from four decades ago
A journey back through time to look at significant news and events reported by the South China Morning Post from this week in history
Soviet scientists planning the conception of a baby in space and the production of test-tube trees in the Philippines made the headlines four decades ago this week.
July 30, 1978
● Two Soviet cosmonauts walked in space for two hours and five minutes – the longest spacewalk carried out under the country’s space programme – to replace scientific equipment on the outside of the orbiting Salyut 6 space station. One of the purposes of the operation was to test a new kind of spacesuit made of semi-hard materials, Moscow radio reported. Among the items carried back to the space station by the cosmonauts were a piece of equipment for monitoring micro-meteors, cassettes containing rubber and other construction materials being tested for their durability in space conditions, and cartridges containing biological polymers from the atmosphere.
July 31, 1978
● A provincial military court in central Thailand sentenced a 17-year-old boy to 366 years and eight months in jail for killing six people – including a two-year-old girl – during a robbery. The court originally handed down a death sentence but commuted it to a jail term as the defendant was still a minor. The boy had committed the crime with four accomplices, who were still at large.
● Two Britons were plucked from a choppy sea by a trawler after they abandoned an attempt to make the first Atlantic crossing by hot air balloon. The pair splashed down just 180km short of the French coast.
August 1, 1978
● Japanese Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda narrowly escaped injury when a right-wing journalist opposed to the sacking of a general tried to ram a vehicle into his chauffeur-driven car in the western port city of Fukui. The general had been forced to resign as chairman of the Joint Staff Council of Japan’s 235,000-strong Self-Defence Forces after making a statement that angered his civilian bosses. The attacker was later arrested and charged with traffic offences.
August 2, 1978
● China was to increase the number of students sent overseas to accelerate its modernisation programme. As an initial step, the education ministry had asked a number of countries to relax quotas and accept more of its students. About 3,000 additional students were expected to be sent to Europe, including Britain, France and West Germany.
● Scientists at a forest research institute in the central Laguna province of the Philippines were conducting research on “test-tube trees”. The month-old embryos of the Moluccan sau tree, used in the production of paper pulp for newspapers, were planted in a nutrient solution. It was hoped that the research would lead to a means of rapidly multiplying trees that could resist pests and diseases.
August 3, 1978
● Soviet scientists were planning another space spectacular mission – the conception and birth of a baby in Earth orbit – according to West Germany’s Bochum Observatory. The experiment, code-named “Vera Bnatzowna”, would involve sending a cosmonaut couple, united in a “marriage of scientific convenience”, into space with the mission of conceiving a child and awaiting its birth. A team of doctors and nurses would also be present on a four-month rotational basis.
● Eating out would cost more from this month as most Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong were raising prices by up to 10 per cent to cover higher licence fees and wages. The price of a plate of dim sum would increase by about 10 to 20 cents, and a simple dish of rice with meat and vegetables would cost 50 cents to $1 more. Annual licence fees had gone up to HK$21,000.
August 4, 1978
● The government issued a strong protest to a British distributor of Michelin tyres over a television commercial that ridiculed Hong Kong’s tyre industry. The advertisement showed two cars involved in a collision following a screech of brakes, followed by a passing motorist saying to a friend: “He must have bought his tyres in Hong Kong.” Michelin assured the Hong Kong public that the ad and references to the city would be withdrawn.
August 5, 1978
● French farmers angry at low pork prices forced President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing to change helicopters during a visit to Brittany by hanging a dead pig on the rotor arm of the presidential craft.
Remember A Day looks at significant news and events reported by the Post during this week in history