Luna 9: first soft landing on another world

Luna 9The Soviet Union lands a palpable hit in the space race, claiming the first intact soft-landing of a man-made probe on another body in the solar system. Luna 9, a 200-pound sphere whose weighted base rolls to the correct orientation before opening petals exposing its camera and other instruments, proves that the lunar surface is dense enough to hold up heavy objects (previous scientific speculation has presented the possibility of a heavy lander sinking into a quicksand-like lunar surface).

ESSA-1: Operational TIROS

ESSAThe recently-rechristened Environmental Sciences Service Administration (previously the U.S. Weather Bureau) launches, with the help of NASA, the first “Operational TIROS” weather satellite, ESSA-1. Based on the architecture of the later TIROS satellites, this is intended to be the first fully-operational, long-life weather satellite, in the tradition of many of the long-lived TIROS weather satellites. But eight months into its operational lifetime, ESSA-1’s on board camera system fails, rendering it blind – it becomes useless as a weather satellite and is kept online for engineering experiments until spring 1967.

NBC picks up Star Trek

Star TrekNBC announces that it has added a new full-color hour-long science fiction series, Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek, to its fall 1966 schedule. Unusually, the show has produced two wildly different pilot episodes, with NBC having asked for specific changes to the series format as early as 1965, when it passed on the original pilot, The Cage. One change specifically requested between pilots by NBC, the omission of a “Satanic” alien character named Mr. Spock, doesn’t prevent the network from ordering 16 episodes from Desilu Studios.