Tiny Adrastea, a small, asteroid-like moon of Jupiter, is discovered in photos returned by Voyager 2 during its flyby of the planet. Adrastea orbits along the outer edge of Jupiter’s ring system, and is likely to be the body from which material for that ring is ejected. Its close orbit carries it around the planet at a speed faster than Jupiter’s rotation, one of the few bodies in the solar system locked into such a fast orbit.
Space Shuttle Columbia is launched on the 63rd mission of the shuttle program. For two weeks, Columbia’s crew participates in the second IML (International Microgravity Laboratory) flight, conducting experiments relying on zero G around the clock. Columbia is also in orbit during the 25th anniversary of Apollo 11, the moon landing mission whose command/service module was also named Columbia. Aboard for Columbia’s 17th flight are Commander Robert Cabana, Pilot James Halsell, Payload Commander Richard Hieb, mission specialists Carl Walz, Leroy Chiao and Donald Thomas, and payload specialist Chiaki Naito-Mukai, the first Japanese woman in space.
The 725th episode of Doctor Who (the 27th since the series’ revival) airs on BBC1. Tracy-Ann Oberman guest stars. This is the conclusion of the second season of the new series, and sees Billie Piper’s exit as a series regular. The end of the episode introduces Catherine Tate as future companion Donna Noble, leading into the 2006 Christmas episode. This episode is the first to pit the Daleks against the Cybermen.
BBC1 premieres the 29th episode of Russell T. Davies’ science fiction series Torchwood. Unlike previous seasons, this season – subtitled Children Of Earth – is only five episodes long, broadcast at a rate of one installment per night, with the implication that the story is unfolding more or less in real time. Peter Capaldi and Paul Copley guest star.
Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off on the 135th and final flight of an American Space Shuttle. During the 13-day mission to the International Space Station, the final shuttle-sized supply delivery takes place. The mission was originally budgeted as a rescue flight for the final Hubble Space Telescope servicing flight in 2009, but is approved as a final station flight since funding and supplies had already been set aside. Atlantis’ 33rd and final crew is Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and mission specialists Rex Walheim and Sandy Magnus. Upon landing at Kennedy Space Center for the final time, Atlantis joins the other orbiters in a months-long process to strip them of working engines and other key components before the shuttles are delivered to their museum destinations.
American pay cable channel Starz premieres the 32nd episode of Russell T. Davies’ science fiction series Torchwood, with a season subtitle of Miracle Day. Filmed in both Los Angeles and Wales, the series features an infusion of fresh cast members (priamrily on the American side), and – for the first time – American scriptwriters as well. This is the first episode of the show’s fourth season, guest starring Bill Pullman (Independence Day) and Robin Sachs (Babylon 5).