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“The Rescue of Athena One”

S1 E8

Production 40024
Original Airdate: March 15, 1974
SMDM 108 Rescue Kelly Steve argue
Steve trains Kelly Woods
Produced by
Sam Strangis and Donald R. Boyle
Written by
D. C. Fontana
Directed by
Lawrence Doheny
Guest Cast
Guest Star(s)
Farrah Fawcett Majors as Kelly Woods
Paul Kent as Flight Surgeon Wolf
John S. Ragin as Flight Director
Quinn Redeker as Capcom
Dean Smith as Major Osterman
Jules Bergman as Himself
Patsy Sabline as 1st Secretary
Toni Jannotta as 2nd Secretary
Broadcast Order
Season 1
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"Eyewitness to Murder" "Dr. Wells Is Missing"
Related episodes
Nightmare in the Sky

Steve trains the first American female astronaut, who along with another injured astronaut, becomes stranded at the Skylab space station. Steve returns to space to lead the rescue, only to have his bionics malfunction.


Steve Austin is posted to NASA where he is tasked with training America's first female astronaut — Major Kelly Woods. Despite initial problems, Major Woods completes her training and is launched into Earth orbit in Athena One with fellow astronaut Major Osterman on a mission to discover new sources of energy.

Shortly afterwards, Athena One is rocked by an explosion which seriously injures Osterman. Fortunately, Major Woods is able to dock the crippled space capsule with the orbiting Skylab space station, where it is intended she will await the arrival of a rescue team and doctor. However, the explosion has jammed the capsule’s hatch, trapping Woods and Osterman inside.

Steve is launched into space alongside Flight Surgeon Wolf to treat and rescue the trapped astronauts. Upon docking with Skylab, Steve manages to force the trapped hatch open, giving Woods and the still unconscious Osterman access to the space station. Flight Surgeon Wolf subsequently carries out a surgical procedure to remove shrapnel from Osterman.

However, during a spacewalk to carry out repairs to Athena One, Steve’s bionics begin to malfunction due to the higher levels of radiation present. As a result, Major Woods has to command the Athena One Rescue capsule, containing all four astronauts inside, successfully back to Earth.

Memorable Quotes[]

Steve Austin: Where do you think you're going, Major?
Kelly Woods: Out, Colonel Sir!
Steve: Look, you run into trouble up there, you can't walk away from it. Now get back in that capsule and we'll run it again.
Woods: We've been at this for six hours!
Steve: Look, I don't make up the program lady; I've just been asked to help you — and I didn't want to do that. Now, if you don't mind, we'll get back in that capsule and we'll work on it again.
Woods: Yes, sir!
Capcom: Steve, you got a problem?
Steve: Yeah, how do I get fired off this job?

Woods: Steve, those lights weigh a ton.
Steve: Oh, they do?
Woods: And you caught it with one arm, how?
Steve: Well, two hands are for beginners.

Oscar Goldman: How will they get down?
Steve: Don't be such a ray of sunshine, Oscar; your microphone's still on.

Oscar: The bookmakers are having a field day down here.
Steve: Yeah, well, don't tell me; big numbers with lots of zeros make me dizzy. Oscar: You'll beat the odds; don't worry.

Steve: Did you try to blow the hatch with the emergency system?
Woods: I've tried everything but a can opener. Want to bring me one?

Woods: Steve, I can't let you go outside.
Steve: Kelly, me Colonel, you Major, remember?

Steve: Space... it is the final frontier. And I can't go.

Woods: How are you?
Steve: I'm fine.
Woods: Lying to a nurse and a fellow pilot is a violation of the rules. But when you are fine, I know a place in Houston that serves a really fantastic dinner. Reasonable too.
Steve: Where is this restaurant?
Woods: My place.


"The Rescue of Athena One" is one of a handful of Six Million Dollar Man episodes to be adapted as a novel. The novelization was written by Mike Jahn, who combined the storyline of this episode with that of "Straight On 'Til Morning" for his .




  • Fontana seems to have snuck in an easter egg reference to Star Trek at the end where Steve says to Oscar, "Space, it is the final frontier."
  • Explaining his show of super-human strength, Steve tells Woods that following his accident, Rudy made him "better than before."
  • This episode establishes that Steve's crash is public knowledge; he tells Woods that his accident was worse than the press releases said it was.
  • A later episode, "Burning Bright," will suggest that Austin might have had more problems to deal with during his spacewalk than a malfunctioning bionic eye.


  • Steve's NASA patch-covered jacket makes its first appearance since The Solid Gold Kidnapping.
  • This episode establishes that Austin was the last American to walk on the moon (a fact also indicated in the novels). It also establishes that Austin's spaceflight took place in January 1972 (the real-life Apollo 17 — the final American moon landing — took place in December 1972). Later, this will be retconned in the "Moon and the Desert" version of the original TV movie, wherein Rudy will state that Steve had two more moonshots after the Moonshot XYZ (assuming Moonshot XYZ refers to the January 1972 mission).
  • A nervous Oscar Goldman smokes while waiting for Steve's safe return. The Bionic Book erroneously states that this is the only time he is ever seen smoking, when in fact he also smokes in an earlier episode, "Doomsday, and Counting".
  • When exiting the ABC studio, Steve throws open a big metal door harder than intended; this is a rare post-TV movie occurrence of Austin misjudging his strength.


  • Jules Bergman, who appears as himself in this episode, served as Science Editor for ABC News from 1961 until his death in 1987. He is best remembered for his expert coverage of the American space program.
  • The footage used for the scene where Steve investigates Athena One's damage is a shot of Apollo 13’s service module.
  • The real-life ABC logo is featured during the Bergman interview.
  • The NASA transmissions heard during the launch will also be used later in "Straight On 'Til Morning."
  • Kelly utters the phrase "We've had a problem" after the explosion on board her capsule. These were the same words uttered by Jim Lovell after the explosion that crippled Apollo 13.
  • Steve's orange jumpsuit displays a patch for Apollo 13. This establishes that the Apollo 13 mission, and very likely the accident as well, exists in SMDM continuity. Other patches on Steve’s suit include Apollo and Skylab program patches, Apollo 11, Apollo 8, Apollo 16, Skylab 3, and Skylab 4. This may indicate that the episode takes place after Skylab 4, thusly spring 1974.
  • It appears, judging by the prop models, that the majority of the crew’s time on Skylab is spent on the lower of the two floors of the Orbital Workshop (OWS) section of the station. This floor housed the “wardroom” section of Skylab, including the food preparation stations, sleep stations, and onboard bathroom.
  • In the scene where Steve talks to Oscar on the telephone, four pieces of concept art can be seen on the wall behind him. From left to right they depict a Space Shuttle on landing approach, a close-up of an Apollo in low Earth orbit, a Shuttle deploying a payload, and the Apollo-Soyuz mission. Later, as Steve and Kelly walk through the MSC corridors, a model of a Shuttle in launch configuration is visible.
  • All external views of Skylab are special effects shots, as any stock footage from NASA from the actual mission would have shown only the Starboard solar panel (as the Port one had ripped off during launch) and the parasol thermal shield (installed by the 1st Skylab crew).



  • Austin and Woods wear standard white NASA helmets. In the stock footage used for the space walk scenes, one of the astronauts wears a red helmet.
  • Space shots continue to show only one spacecraft docked at Skylab when two should be visible, after Steve and the doctor have arrived at the space station.
  • Steve's flight is called Athena Rescue but audio of Capcom calling it Athena One is reused once during its launch.


  • Capcom tells Steve that the Kitty Hawk is "coming on hard" enroute to the splashdown location but stock footage of the aircraft carrier at 40:21 shows the anchor chain is deployed, which means the ship is not underway.
  • After splashdown in the middle of the ocean, stock footage of a rescue helicopter shows the outline of a nearby city.
  • Given that mission control is able to monitor his vital signs, no indication is made that Steve registers abnormal.
  • The episode plays fast and loose with the concept of zero-G, as at times the astronauts look like they're walking normally, and other times we see, for example, one of them sleeping in a zero-gravity hammock. No mention is made of any of them having "magnetic boots."