February 7, 1984 – The news had much to do with being up in the air – on one side of the spectrum, it was about a historic spacewalk and on the other side of the spectrum it was about political upheaval.
Above Earth, it was Space Shuttle Challenger Astronauts, McCandless and Stewart, and it was about floating in space without the aid of a tether. Bruce McCandless said it may have been a small step for Neil Armstrong, but it was a huge leap for McCandless, who made his first tentative movements around Challenger’s Cargo Bay, and then out he went into space; no tether, with only the aid of a jet-powered backpack, latched on to his spacesuit. First 150 feet from Challenger. Then out to 320 feet. McCandless called the backpack a “beautiful flying machine”, while admiring the spectacular view. He became the first human earth-orbiting satellite. And then it was back to the cargo bay to give his partner Robert Stewart his turn. And Stewart became the second man to venture out in space without a tether. It was an exciting part of Shuttle Mission #41b, and success could help relieve the disappointment over the failure of Challenger’s two satellite payloads earlier in the mission.
Back on earth; Amin Gemayel‘s Beirut had virtually fallen to the rebel militia and his fate was up in the air, as he hadn’t been heard from in over two days. The U.S. Battleship New Jersey fired its 5-inch guns at targets in Lebanon, but the targets were shifting as the tide of battle. After a a night of “living hell”, West Beirut fell into the hands of the Muslim Left. All across this sector, Muslim militiamen were patrolling the streets. Mixed among them were troops of the Lebanese Army; deserters. Living proof that Amin Gemayel’s American-trained/American equipped Army had fallen apart. There were still a few pockets of resistance; Army positions where Christian Army officers and a handful of Christian government troops were holding out. They were still loyal to Gemayel, but how fiercely they were fighting also reflected the fact that they’re Christians cut off in an area now controlled by their Muslim enemies. Throughout the night artillery pounded this sector of Beirut. At times, shells fell at the rate of more than two a minute – those who lived in Beirut spent the night in their basements, emerging that morning to a scene of utter destruction. They also found a city divided once more; their hopes of unity, shattered. From Amin Gemayel there was nothing but silence, and to quote a top Lebanese Military source, “everything we ever feared has happened. West Beirut has fallen, and the army in disintegrating”.
And that’s just a taste of what went on this roller-coaster day in history, as presented by The CBS World News Roundup.