TIROS-9

TIROSNASA and the United States Weather Bureau launch the ninth experimental TIROS weather satellite, TIROS-9. Heavier than any of the other TIROS experimental satellites, and with cameras mounted on opposite sides of the satellite’s cylindrical body to keep the Earth in view at all times. The result, in February, is the first-ever snapshot of the entire world’s weather patterns within a single day. TIROS-9 also carries other upgrades being considered for an upcoming fleet of full-time operational weather satellites, and remains in service for three and a half years.

Ranger 8

RangerNASA launches the Ranger 8 lunar probe, built by Jet Propulsion Laboratory and intended to go directly to the moon, transmitting pictures of the surface back to Earth until it impacts the lunar surface. Ranger 8 functions flawlessly, sending pictures back to Earth until it slams into the Sea of Tranquility at high speed. Over 7,000 photos are returned, with the last complete picture transmitted prior to impact showing lunar surface features as small as five feet across.

Voskhod 2: the first spacewalk

Voskhod 2Voskhod 2 is launched by the Soviet Union, this time with only a two-man crew for a very specific mission. Cosmonauts Pavel Belyaev and Alexei Leonov orbit Earth for 28 hours, but during one orbit an airlock is extended from the side of their Voskhod capsule and Leonov squeezes through the airlock tunnel in a spacesuit, becoming the first human being to exit his spacecraft in flight. He spends 10 minutes walking in space, but this Soviet space first nearly ends badly; Leonov’s suit “inflates” as a result of pressurization, making it extremely difficult to enter the vehicle again (and nearly overexerting him in the process of getting back inside). A guidance system malfunction forces Belyaev to manually control the vehicle during reentry and descent, but Voskhod 2’s crew capsule lands over 700 miles away from Moscow in a remote wilderness in the dead of winter, and the cosmonauts wait hours for a recovery team to rescue them via helicopter.

Ranger 9

RangerNASA launches the Ranger 9 lunar probe, built by Jet Propulsion Laboratory and intended to go directly to the moon, transmitting pictures of the surface back to Earth until it impacts the lunar surface. Despite NASA scientists’ insistence that the last Ranger probe carry scientific instruments and not just cameras, Ranger 9 is outfitted with cameras only; as a tradeoff, scientists get to nominate its target on the surface, selecting the crater Alphonsus, suspected to be a site of lunar volcanism. Ranger 8 functions flawlessly, sending live video back to Earth until impacting in the crater floor, and for the first time the terminal descent of one of the Ranger probes is broadcast live on TV. This concludes the Ranger program, as NASA now needs to switch its efforts to the unmanned Surveyor lunar landers to find out if the moon’s surface can support the weight of a manned lander. The basic architecture of the Ranger spacecraft is adopted as the heart of the ongoing Mariner planetary space probe series, up to and including the Mariner Jupiter/Saturn ’77 missions (later renamed Voyager) over a decade later.

Gemini 3

Gemini 3The first two-man American space crew lifts off in the first manned flight of NASA’s Gemini program. With a larger, more maneuverable spacecraft designed for longer stays in space, Gemini is intended to be a stepping stone on the path to the first lunar landing, allowing astronauts to practice rendezvous, docking, and orbital changes. Aboard the Gemini capsule are Mercury veteran Gus Grissom and rookie John Young; the capsule is unofficially nicknamed “Molly Brown” (a reference to Grissom’s sunken Mercury capsule). The flight lasts barely five hours and includes the first-ever orbital attitude changed made by a manned spacecraft.

Palm Sunday Tornado Outbreak

1965 Palm Sunday tornado outbreakOn the 45th anniversary of a similar severe weather event, a major outbreak of violent tornadoes strikes the northern midwest, causing 271 deaths and over a thousand injuries in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, and Michigan; 137 of the deaths occur in Indiana alone. With weather radar still in its infant state, a radio station in Cedar Rapids spots the first storm on its own radar, while nearby National Weather Service offices do not have radar yet. The U.S. Weather Bureau’s confusing system of “tornado forecasts” and “tornado alerts” is changed to more clearly delineated “watches” and “warnings” after this event.

Vehicle Assembly Building open for business

Vehicle Assembly BuildingNASA’s massive Vehicle Assembly Building is completed at the spaceport rapidly taking shape on Cape Canaveral ahead of the Apollo lunar missions. Topped off at a total cost of $117,000,000, the VAB is where Saturn V rockets are assembled for the Apollo moonshots, and the huge, eight-acre building will later transition to the assembly of the Space Shuttle launch system elements and the Space Launch System boosters for the 21st century Orion program.