NASA launches its first interplanetary spacecraft, the unmanned space probe Mariner 2, en route to Venus. During its three-month trip from Earth to Venus, Mariner 2 takes measurements of solar wind, charged particles, and an experiment is included to measure the amount of dust and micrometeoroids between the two planets. The probe briefly loses attitude control several times in flight, but regains proper orientation in each instance.
With NASA anticipating ramping up its launch schedule to more than one shuttle flight per month to meet demand for the vehicle’s unique satellite deployment and retrieval capabilities, construction begins on the third orbiter intended for spaceflight, Space Shuttle Discovery. Construction and checking of the third shuttle takes almost exactly four years, with Discovery’s first liftoff about a year later.
Coleco releases the LED matrix-driven tabletop version of Donkey Kong in a colorful case with arcade artwork. The game play and graphics are somewhat lacking, but the mini-arcade games tend to sell well since they don’t require connection to the family TV.
Space Shuttle Discovery lifts off on a mission to deliver three communications satellites to orbit. The triple payload includes SYNCOM IV-4, the Australian AUSSAT-1 satellite, and American Satellite Company’s ASC-1. Discovery is manned on this mission by Commander Joe Engle, Pilot Richard Covey, and mission specialists James van Hoften, John Lounge and William Fisher. The mission lasts one week, and Discovery is able to return home a day early after achieving mission objectives ahead of time.
The movie-length pilot episode of Witchblade airs on cable channel TNT, based on the Top Cow comic book of the same name. Yancy Butler stars as NYPD officer Sara Pezzini, who happens upon an ancient relic of awesome power during a shootout. David Chokachi (Baywatch) also stars.
Nintendo releases Mario Kart: Super Circuit for the Game Boy Advance in North America (the game had already been released in Japan a month earlier. The game is essentially a Game Boy Advance port of the smash hit SNES game Super Mario Kart.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft completes its first orbit of giant planet Jupiter with an orbit-shaping manever that takes it as close to Jupiter’s cloudtops as 2,600 miles – less than the width of the continental United States – at a speed of over 100,000 miles per hour. Juno obtains the first close-up views of the north and south poles of the planet, revealing a roiling hotbed of storm activity unlike the poles of relatively quiet Saturn. In addition to photos, Juno scans the planet in the infrared and ultraviolet portions of the spectrum. This is scheduled to be Juno’s closest flyby of its entire mission.