Michael Piller, Star Trek producer, dies

Michael PillerTelevision writer and producer Michael Piller, credited by many for the success of the revived Star Trek franchise (and co-creator of spinoff series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager) dies at the age of 57 after a prolonged battle with cancer. Piller, who had previously been a producer on Simon & Simon and the SF series Probe, joined Star Trek: The Next Generation as the head of the writing staff for the third season in 1990, replacing Maurice Hurley. Piller was generally credited with bringing a more friendly vibe to the show’s writing sessions and with finding new talent, such as fan writer Ronald D. Moore. Piller also wrote the popular two-part episode The Best Of Both Worlds and many others, and went on to create Deep Space Nine with Rick Berman and Voyager with Berman and fellow Next Generation veteran Jeri Taylor. Piller created the short-lived series Legend for UPN, starring Richard Dean Anderson (pre-SG-1) and John de Lancie, and later formed a production company with his son Shawn, where he developed the recent version of The Dead Zone for TV, as well as ABC Family Channel’s Wildfire, starring DS9 alumnus Nana Visitor.

Hayabusa pulls up

HayabusaThe first attempt to maneuver the unmanned space probe Hayabusa close enough to scoop up a sample of material from the surface of asteroid 25143 Itokawa is aborted by ground controllers at the Japanese space agency, JAXA. The spacecraft’s navigational system finds it difficult to maintain a precise lock on the elongated asteroid, so its automatic safety systems abort the approach to preserve Hayabusa intact. Another attempt to bring Hayabusa close enough to gather material from Itokawa’s surface will be made a week later.

Hayabusa on Itokawa

HayabusaA second attempt is made by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency to bring its unmanned space probe, Hayabusa, close enough to gather a sample of surface material from asteroid 25143 Itokawa. It attempts to deploy a mini-rover called Minerva to explore Itokawa from the surface, but a glitch results in a trajectory that leaves Minerva tumbling into space, never to reach Itokawa. Hayabusa lands on Itokawa’s surface itself, though mission controllers don’t realize this for several more days. Contact is lost with Hayabusa for a short while, and when it is regained, the vehicle has left the surface and gone into safe mode.

Doctor Who: Children In Need Special

Doctor WhoDavid Tennant and Billie Piper star in a “special scene” written and filmed for the BBC’s Children In Need telethon. Not a spoof sketch, the short “mini-episode” bridges the gap between The Parting Of The Ways and the upcoming Christmas special, The Christmas Invasion. Though it can be considered an official part of the storyline, this is not considered a standalone episode of Doctor Who.

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Homeward, Hayabusa!

HayabusaJAXA’s unmanned Hayabusa spacecraft fires its ion engines to depart asteroid 25143 Itokawa, embarking on a five-year trek back to Earth to return surface samples it obtained of the asteroid. Hayabusa has experienced numerous technical glitches, and continues to experience further problems, including a total loss of contact with Earth for several weeks. Only two out of the vehicle’s four ion engines are still functional, and its battery system is only partially reliable, but it is carrying its precious cargo of the first sample material from an asteroid back to Earth.

Doctor Who: The Christmas Invasion

Doctor WhoThe 712th episode of Doctor Who (the 14th since the series’ revival) airs on BBC1. David Tennant spends much of his first episode portraying an unconscious tenth Doctor, recovering from his regeneration; Penelope Wilton guest stars as Harriet Jones. This is the first episode of Doctor Who intended to be a Christmas special since 1965.

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