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The cover to the 1975 paperback edition

The Rescue of Athena One was the fifth novel in the Warner Paperback Library series of Six Million Dollar Man novels. It was adapted by Mike Jahn. It adapted the D. C. Fontana-penned episodes, "The Rescue of Athena One" and "Straight on 'til Morning" into one storyline; their integration is aided by the fact they are thematically similar, both involving space.


In August 1978,Steve Austin is training Kelly Wood to fly the Athena One space capsule to Skylab B to install a telescope. Wood is recalcitrant and storms out of the simulation chamber after an abortive run. Austin, to cool his mind, takes a walk in a local nature reserve,where he runs into some natives of a planet orbiting the star Tau Ceti. He accidentally kills one of them, Eymon (several others are killed by local hunters), but rescues his sister, Minonee. She has difficulties adapting to life on Earth but Austin lets her temporarily move in with him until she can be launched back into space. In gratitude she gifts him a mysterious disk.

Athena One launches successfully but suffers a micrometeor collision shortly after achieving orbit. The capsule could come down to Earth but Kelly isn’t willing to risk the life of her co-pilot,Osterman,who was injured. However,the first mission of the Space Shuttle is drawing near, so Austin borrows the pilot of that mission,Ed McCarthy,to serve as his pilot and Rudy Wells to operate on Osterman. He then realizes that he can use the mission to return Minonee to space.

The launch goes off at 10 am on the day after Athena’s launch. Athena has rendezvoused safely with Skylab. Austin brings the Shuttle,call sign “Rescue”,to the vicinity of Skylab. Minonee tells him that the disk is an ikon depicting a Cetian warrior,and that it will bring luck. Osterman and Wood are transferred to the Shuttle.

The next day,a Cetian spaceship arrives. Its crew is led by Etan, who is Minonee’s lover. She is transferred to the spaceship and (implied to be an act of gratitude for Minonee’s return) the Cetians heal Osterman. Austin,Wells,McCarthy,Wood,and Osterman return to Earth in the Shuttle. The Cetians send a playful parting message consisting of a bit from The Walrus and the Carpenter by Lewis Carroll and Austin realizes that the ikon’s metal could contain the secret to ion engines.

Differences between the episode(s) and book[]

  • The obvious one - the use of the Space Shuttle
  • In the original SotM episode, the other Cetians are killed upon landing, instead of later
  • The mission of Athena One in the show was to search for new energy sources, and it’s not clear that a Skylab docking was originally meant
  • In the show, the surgeon who operates on Osterman is not Rudy Wells but Dr Wolf
  • The Athena Rescue Mission in the show had just Austin and Wolf:there was no pilot analogue to the book’s McCarthy,so Austin probably served in both the commander and pilot roles for the rendezvous with Skylab
  • In the show, it can be implied that the Skylab visited by Athena is the one Skylab that was actually launched, in 1973. In the book it is explicitly Skylab B, launched in 1976 to replace Skylab. Skylab B was briefly considered for launch to replace Skylab, but budget issues meant that this never happened.
  • The subplot of the two EVAs to repair Skylab and inspect Athena One is omitted. However,there is one EVA,conducted so Austin and Wood can get from the Shuttle to Skylab.
  • Also omitted is the sub-subplot of Austin being unable to control the return to Earth due to radiation impairing his bionics
  • The ending of SotM is quite different in the book vs the show. In the show, Minonee is launched on a lunar probe: when the probe isn’t contacted successfully after its lunar flyby,it’s to be implied that Minonee was successfully recovered by her fellow Cetians. In the book,as explained above, a Cetian expedition comes to Earth orbit to rescue Minonee. Austin and Wood actually visit the Cetian spaceship briefly
  • The Athena One launch is at night here (12:02 am) versus 20 minutes past an unspecified daytime hour in the show

Typos and errors[]

  • Page 91 - during the Athena countdown, Rudy Wells is referred to as “Ruddy Wells”
Novels based upon Cyborg, The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman
Martin Caidin's Cyborg series of novels
Cyborg (1972) | Operation Nuke (1973) | High Crystal (1974) | Cyborg IV (1975)
Six Million Dollar Man numbered Warner paperbacks
#1 Wine, Women and War | #2 The Solid Gold Kidnapping | #3 High Crystal | #4 PIlot Error
#5 The Rescue of Athena One | #6 Cyborg IV
Six Million Dollar Man Berkley paperbacks
International Incidents | The Secret of Bigfoot Pass (UK title: The Secret of Bigfoot)
The Bionic Woman Berkley paperbacks
Welcome Home, Jaime (UK title: Double Identity) | Extracurricular Activities (UK title: A Question of Life)