Nicholas Courtney, Doctor Who actor, dies

Nicholas CourtneyForever known as the Brigadier (and thus the only ranking UNIT officer who counts), actor Nicholas Courtney dies at the age of 81, the only actor to have appeared alongside every Doctor in Doctor Who. After appearing as a one-off guest character in the Hartnell era, Courtney is drafted into the role of Colonel Lethbridge Stewart for a 1968 Doctor Who story, proving popular enough to return the following season with a promotion to Brigadier. In this role, Courtney guest starred with every television Doctor (including, thanks to a cameo in a 1993 charity skit, Colin Baker); he would also appear alonside Paul McGann in a Big Finish audio play, a medium that also saw him appearing with David Tennant, years before being cast as the tenth Doctor. Courtney would play the role for Big Finish several times, and even reprised the Brigadier in a 1995 fan-made video production, before bringing the character back in a two-part episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures.

STS-133: Discovery’s final flight

Space ShuttleSpace Shuttle Discovery lifts off on the 133rd shuttle flight, a 13-day mission add a new (but familiar) module to the International Space Station. One of the logistics modules that has flown in the cargo bay of seven prior shuttle missions is attached to the ISS permanently, adding nearly 2,500 cubic feet of storage space to the facility. Also delivered to the station is Robonaut 2, an experimental robot designed to assist with routine tasks as well as spacewalks. Discovery’s 39th and final crew is Commander Steve Lindsey, Pilot Eric Boe, and mission specialists Alvin Drew, Nicole Stott, Steve Bowen and Michael Barratt.

X-37B OTV-2

X-37BThe U.S. Air Force launches a second unmanned X-37B spacecraft into Earth orbit atop an Atlas V rocket. Designated USA-226, this is the second Boeing-built X-37B to reach orbit, and is the first to remain in orbit for over a year, re-entering the atmosphere and successfully conducting an automated landing in June 2012. This X-37B also features a solar panel array that is deployed from its cargo compartment, allowing it to generate constant power during its classified 15-month mission.

Retirement homes for Space Shuttles

Space ShuttleNASA announces the results of a bidding process for soon-to-be-retired Space Shuttle vehicles by institutions across the country. The original test vehicle, Enterprise, will be removed from the Smithsonian and replaced by the space-flown Discovery, while Atlantis will become the centerpiece of a new exhibit at NASA’s own Kennedy Space Center. Endeavour will be handed over to the California Science Museum in Los Angeles, while Enterprise’s new home will be in New York City’s Intrepid Museum. Institutions not selected to receive one of the shuttles, including NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, almost immediately claim that the selection process has been swayed by politics. None of the vehicles will be transported from Kennedy Space Center to their new locations until the following year.

Elisabeth Sladen, Doctor Who actress, dies

Elisabeth SladenActress Elisabeth Sladen, possibly the performer who has maintained the longest on-screen association with a Doctor Who character in the history of the franchise, dies at the age of 65. In 1973, the producers of Doctor Who had hired another actress to play the part of new companion Sarah Jane Smith, only to meet with strenuous objections from series lead Jon Pertwee. Elisabeth Sladen was then cast in the part, continuing to play Sarah Jane through 1976, one of the longest-running companions in the original series. Numerous times she had been approached to reprise her role, only agreeing to do so in 1981 in her own spinoff, K-9 & Company, which never made it past the pilot stage. After reprising the role of Sarah Jane for Big Finish’s audio spinoff series centered around the character, she was asked to play the part again – on television – alongside David Tennant, sparking new interest in the character and ultimately leading to her own spinoff series, The Sarah Jane Adventures. Filming of the fifth season of that series had been put on hold while she was admitted to the hospital.

Doctor Who: The Impossible Astronaut

Doctor WhoThe 773rd episode of Doctor Who (the 75th since the series’ revival) airs on BBC1, beginning the sixth season of the revived series. The episode sets up a time-bending paradox and guest stars Alex Kingston, Mark Sheppard (Battlestar Galactica) and W. Morgan Sheppard (Max Headroom), and introduces a new enemy, the Silents.

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STS-134: Endeavour’s final flight

Space ShuttleSpace Shuttle Endeavour lifts off on its final flight into orbit, carrying an alpha magnetic spectrometer instrument and supplies to the International Space Station during a 16-day mission. This is Endeavour’s 25th and final launch. The crew for this mission consists of Commander Mark Kelly, Pilot Greg Johnson, and mission specialists Mike Fincke, Drew Feustel, Greg Chamitoff and Roberto Vittori.

Dawn and the vistas of Vesta

Vesta from DawnFrom a distance of 117,000 miles, NASA’s Dawn unmanned space probe captures the best picture yet of the asteroid Vesta, one of the two largest bodies in the solar system’s main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Launched in 2007, Dawn is scheduled to orbit and map Vesta before moving on to the asteroid belt’s largest resident, Ceres, in 2015. Mission scientists hope that the two asteroids – remnants of what may be an unformed or destroyed rocky planet beyond Mars’ orbit – will yield clues about the formation of the solar system.

STS-135: final flight of the Space Shuttle

Space ShuttleSpace 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.

Torchwood: The New World

TorchwoodAmerican 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).

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Dawn orbits Vesta

Vesta from DawnLaunched in 2007, NASA’s unmanned space probe Dawn enters orbit of Vesta, one of the largest bodies in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Over time, the mission plan calls for Dawn to spiral down to lower orbits to explore and map Vesta from orbit, trying to determine what secrets the large asteroid has about the earliest days of the solar system. If all goes well, Dawn will remain at Vesta until 2012, and will depart to explore another asteroid, Ceres, arriving there in 2015.

Star Trek: TNG Collection Vol. 1 soundtrack

Star Trek: The Motion PictureSoundtrack specialty label La-La Land Records releases a limited edition 3-CD set featuring selections from various Star Trek: The Next Generation episode soundtracks. With the exception of two short tracks, none of the music on this set – which spans the entire seven-year run of the series – has been released before. Music by Dennis McCarthy, Jay Chattaway, John Debney, Don Davis and Fred Steiner is included.

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Juno to Jupiter!

JunoNASA launches the unmanned Juno space probe on its way to Jupiter, on a trajectory that will accelerate the vehicle through a series of maneuvers, including a gravity assist pass of Earth, en route to Jupiter. Once it arrives at the solar system’s largest planet, Juno will enter a polar orbit to monitor the planet’s clouds and magnetic field over a period of one year beginning in 2016. Juno is solar-powered, without the customary nuclear power source that has been a feature of all previous outer solar system missions. Since it will spend time within the heaviest area of Jupiter’s magnetosphere, Juno’s components are built into a hexagonal structure which acts as a heavy-duty Faraday cage to block out the radiation trapped within Jupiter’s magnetic field.

The Black Hole soundtrack

Soundtrack specialty label Intrada releases one of the most-requested “holy grails” in the history of the hobby of soundtrack collecting, an official CD release of John Barry’s soundtrack from the 1979 Disney science fiction movie The Black Hole. Presented in its entirety for the first time, the release is the product of years of work to recover and copy the original session tapes, which were originally recorded on a now-obscure digital tape format.

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