Ralph McQuarrie, Star Wars illustrator, dies

Star Wars, as envisioned by Ralph McQuarrieRalph McQuarrie, the artist who envisioned key scenes and settings of the Star Wars universe, before sets or models were built and before filming began, dies at the age of 82. As the production artist for Star Wars, McQuarrie got his licks in early on how the “universe” should look, from costumes to spacecraft to weaponry. George Lucas credited McQuarrie’s artwork with keeping the movies’ “look” on track, as well as selling 20th Century Fox on the idea of financing the first movie in the absence of any kind of test footage. McQuarrie also provided concepts for a redesigned U.S.S. Enterprise for an early ‘70s Star Trek movie project, Star Trek: Planet Of The Titans, that ultimately went unfilmed. He also contributed early concept art to Battlestar Galactica, E.T., Cocoon, Batteries Not Included, and many others, and had also worked on the animated artists’ conceptions of the Apollo moon missions played during CBS’ coverage of those flights.

Project Yellow Sphere

The enigmatically titled internet short film Project Yellow Sphere debuts, revealed to be a semi-serious, six-minute live-action-plus-CGI proof-of-concept trailer for a potential Pac-Man movie. Shot and produced entirely at commercial production house Steelehouse Productions in Tulsa, Oklahoma, it’s the closest anyone has gotten to mounting a long-talked about Pac-Man film.

More about Project Yellow Sphere in the LogBook

Star Trek Phase II: The Child

Star Trek Phase IIThe internet-based fan film Star Trek: Phase II releases its eighth full-length episode, The Child, based on the original version of a Star Trek: Phase II story written in the 1970s (which was eventually hurriedly recycled into TNG’s second season finale after the 1988 Writers’ Guild strike). Jon Povill, the original co-writer of the 1970s script, directs.

More about Star Trek Phase II in the LogBook

Discovery retired

Space ShuttleHaving completed its last mission, Space Shuttle Discovery is retired, stripped of working engine parts and other items, and donated to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum by NASA. The workhorse of the shuttle fleet, Discovery flew in space 39 times starting in 1984, visiting both Mir and the International Space Station, and racking up a cumulative total of an entire year in orbit. Discovery takes the place of the test orbiter, Enterprise, which has been on display at the Smithsonian since the 1980s.

SpaceX Dragon visits the ISS

Dragon at ISSSpaceX launches its second Dragon unmanned cargo vehicle, this time as the first privately-owned spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station. Carrying only supplies, equipment and experiments, the Dragon capsule carries out a program of closing to within a certain distance of the station and then slowly approaches until it is close enough to be grabbed by the station’s remote manipulator arm and attached to a docking port under the station crew’s control. The Expedition 31 astronauts aboard the station report that the interior of the capsule has a “new car smell” that is quite noticeable when compared to the atmosphere aboard the station. Over the course of a week, fresh cargo is unloaded into the station from the Dragon capsule, and cargo intended for return to Earth is loaded into the capsule. NASA is satisfied with the results and contracts SpaceX to begin routine cargo flights via Dragon later in the year.

Caroline John, Doctor Who actress, dies

Caroline JohnCaroline John, who joined the cast of Doctor Who for only a single season (also the show’s first season in color), accompanying incoming third Doctor Jon Pertwee as the Doctor’s scientific assistant Liz Shaw, dies at the age of 72 due to complications from cancer. Despite her brief connection to the series, Caroline John has remained associated with Doctor Who, from reprising the role of Liz Shaw repeatedly for Big Finish Productions, to making a cameo appearance in 1983’s The Five Doctors, to reviving Liz as the head of a secret scientific think tank in the fan-made PROBE video series of the 1990s.

VWORP!1

VWORP!1theLogBook.com releases its first book, VWORP!1 by Earl Green. Spanning nearly 400 pages, the book covers Doctor Who on TV from 1963 through 2011, with an emphasis on story threads that hold “classic” Who (1963-1989) and “new” Who (2005-present) together. The book makes its “live” debut at the 2012 Oklahoma Video Gaming Exhibition (OVGE) in Tulsa a few days later; an ebook version is released at a later date.

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Shenzhou 9

Shenzhou 9China launches its fourth manned space mission, Shenzhou 9, on the first manned flight to the small space station Tiangong-1. The crew consists of Jing Haipeng, Liu Wang, and the first female space traveler from China, Liu Yang. Automated docking at Tiangong-1 has been rehearsed by ground controllers during the unmanned Shenzhou 8 mission, but this mission requires both automatic and manual dockings to be carried out. The crew will spend a total of 13 days in space.

Shenzhou 9 docks at Tiangong-1

Tiangong-1The three-person crew of Chinese space vehicle Shenzhou 9 successfully achieves an automated docking at Tiangong-1, China’s first space station. The crew spends a total of six days aboard the station, described by the Chinese government as an orbital laboratory, before undocking and then successfully attempt a manual docking maneuver. The nature of the crew’s work during its stay aboard Tiangong-1 is not revealed.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture soundtrack

Star Trek: The Motion PictureSoundtrack specialty label La-La Land Records releases a long-awaited 3-CD set featuring – for the first time – the entirety of Jerry Goldsmith’s soundtrack from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Including spin-off singles (such as Shaun Cassidy’s infamous vocal version of the Ilia theme), unused music from an early draft of the score, and extensive liner notes, half of the set’s limited print run of 10,000 copies sells out within days, forcing the label to ask customers to wait for the rest of the copies to arrive at their warehouse.

More about Star Trek soundtracks in Music Reviews

Enterprise re-retired

Space ShuttleHaving already been donated to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in 1985, Space Shuttle Enterprise, a test vehicle not built to spaceflight specs, is removed from the custom-made hangar at the Smithsonian and prepared for re-gifting. With NASA donating the space-flown shuttle Discovery to the Smithsonian, Enterprise will now become a major display at New York City’s Intrepid Museum, based on the retired aircraft carrier U.S.S. Intrepid. For the first time in nearly 20 years, Enterprise is loaded onto one of the modified Boeing 747s from which it made its in-atmosphere test flights in 1977 and is transported to New York.

Mary Tamm, Doctor Who actress, dies

Mary TammActress Mary Tamm, who appeared in a single (but very high-profile) season of Doctor Who as the first incarnation of the Time Lady Romana, dies at the age of 62 after a battle with cancer. Having revived her version of the Romana character in recent years for Big Finish Productions’ Doctor Who audio stories (and the spinoff series Gallifrey), Tamm has remained popular with fans and has also recently completed her autobiography. Several days later, mere hours after delivering a eulogy at her memorial service, her husband of 34 years, Marcus Ringrose, also dies of a heart attack.

Curiosity rover lands on Mars

CuriositySurviving a previously untested landing method involving a rocket-firing sky crane, NASA’s Curiosity rover (or, more formally, the Mars Science Laboratory) lands safely on Mars, at the base of a mountain near Gale Crater. The first images from the surface arrive within seconds of landing, confirming the safe delivery of NASA’s latest mobile Mars explorer. The landing is especially suspenseful due to the “seven minutes of terror” – the one-way time for a signal to reach Earth from Mars – and the fact that the entire reentry and landing procedure takes 14 minutes.

Voyager 1 close to the edge of the solar system?

Voyager35 years after its departure from Earth, NASA’s Voyager 1 space probe registers major changes in its environment, including a large spike in radiation readings believed to indicate the presence of interstellar cosmic radiation. Some scientists claim that these changes in Voyager 1’s surroundings meet the expected criteria for space beyond the influence of Earth’s sun, making Voyager 1 the first man-made craft to reach interstellar space; others, including former Voyager project scientists, disagree with that assessment. Voyager 1 has no further planetary stops, and is expected to pass within two light years of the star Gliese 445 in 40,000 years.

Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon, dies

Neil ArmstrongAmerican astronaut – and the first human being to walk on the surface of the moon – Neil Armstrong dies at the age of 82. On July 20th, 1969, he took the “giant leap” onto another world that instantly made him perhaps the most famous citizen of the 20th century – moreso than the Beatles, more than Hitler or Churchill, more than any actor. That century will be defined by the exploration of the moon forever, and as many men walked on its surface, Armstrong’s will be the name that is forever associated with that exploration.

Doctor Who: Asylum Of The Daleks

Doctor WhoThe 787th episode of Doctor Who airs on BBC1 (the 89th episode since the series’ revival). Asylum Of The Daleks opens the seventh season of the revived show, and features a surprising first appearance by new series regular Jenna-Louise Coleman, whose new companion character was originally announced as debuting in the 2012 Christmas special. (The most surprising thing about this is that preview audiences keep this secret from the entire internet for several weeks.)

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Radiation Belt Storm Probes find new belt

Radiation Belt Storm ProbesThe Radiation Belt Storm Probes mission launched by NASA begins activating sensors just a few days after liftoff, weeks ahead of schedule, just in time to reveal a finding that forces a rethink of over half a century of widely-accepted science. The probes find that, in response to the recent eruption of a solar prominence, the two Van Allen radiation belts discovered in 1958 by Explorer 1 have expanded to include a third belt, which traps and repels additional solar radiation back into space. The third radiation belt dissipates after four weeks, and scientists begin rethinking their theories on Earth’s magnetosphere.

Dawn departs Vesta

Vesta from DawnNASA’s Dawn unmanned space probe fires up its ion propulsion system, breaking its orbit around the large asteroid Vesta. Having orbited and mapped Vesta since 2011, Dawn must now survive a nearly-three-year trip through the main asteroid belt to reach the largest body in that region, Ceres. Successful arrival at Ceres, planned for 2015, would make Dawn the first unmanned spacecraft to have orbited two bodies in the solar system.

Battlestar Galactica Volume 3 soundtrack

Soundtrack specialty label Intrada releases a third volume of Stu Phillips’ episode soundtracks from the TV Series Battlestar Galactica. The complete scores from the episodes The Long Patrol, The Lost Warriors, The Magnificent Warriors, The Young Lords, Murder On The Rising Star, The Hand Of God and the Galactica 1980 episode The Return Of Starbuck are included.

More about Battlestar Galactica soundtracks in Music Reviews

Endeavour retired

Space ShuttleNASA donates the retired Space Shuttle Endeavour, stripped of working engines and other vital equipment, to the California Science Center in Los Angeles. The last shuttle to be built, construction on Endeavour began in 1988 from spare parts to replace the destroyed Challenger; Endeavour lifted off for the first time in 1992, ultimately flying 25 missions, including many of the International Space Station construction missions. This also marks the final flight of the modified Boeing 747 shuttle carrier aircraft, which flew for the first time in 1977.

Michael O’Hare, Babylon 5 actor, dies

Michael O'HareMichael O’Hare, who starred in the 1993 pilot movie and the first full season (1994) of the science fiction series Babylon 5, dies of complications from a heart attack he suffered the week before. An accomplished stage actor who made infrequent forays into television, O’Hare had been out of the public eye (including the science fiction convention circuit) for several years.

More about Babylon 5 in the LogBook

SpaceX Dragon CRS-1

Dragon at ISSHaving successfully demonstrated an unmanned cargo vehicle to make supply runs to the International Space Station, SpaceX launches the first Dragon capsule to the ISS under its new commercial resupply contract with NASA. The flight is not without difficulties: one of the nine engines of the Falcon 9 booster’s first stage shuts down in flight without impacting the Dragon capsule’s ability to reach the right orbit, but a secondary payload – a commercial satellite to be launched from the Falcon’s upper stage – is stranded in the wrong orbit and falls back into Earth’s atmosphere in days. NASA and SpaceX begin a joint investigation into the mishap, while the Dragon capsule docks with the ISS and remains in orbit for nearly three weeks as Expedition 33 crew members unload new cargo and stow items for return to Earth aboard the capsule, which will be recovered on Earth after splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.