NOAA’s GOES-14 Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite is launched from Cape Canaveral into geosynchronous orbit to monitor weather patterns over the United States. It will be held in reserve until August 2012, when it will be activated to begin monitoring Tropical Storm Isaac as it closes in on the Gulf Coast, and it will redirected to monitor Hurricane Sandy’s approach and landfall on the east coast of the United States. In 2013 it will be moved to a position near the GOES-EAST geostationary position to cover the Atlantic Ocean and the east coast during one of GOES-13’s many technical outages. It remains in orbit on standby.
NASA’s NEAR (Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous) unmanned spacecraft closes to within 750 miles of its first target, asteroid 253 Mathilde. Taking over 500 pictures of the asteroid and determining its mass and dimensions (roughly 31 miles in diameter). At the time of this flyby, Mathilde is the largest asteroid to be explored by a spacecraft. Discovered in 1885, Mathilde takes four years to orbit the sun within the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. NEAR Shoemaker moves on to its next destination, asteroid 433 Eros, which it is expected to reach in 1998.
Cable channel TNT announces that, in addition to ordering two made-for-TV movies continuing the story of syndicated science fiction series Babylon 5, it will be picking up the series for a full fifth season of new episodes. Additionally, work is underway on a sequel/”side story” set in the same universe, provisionally titled The Babylon Project: Crusade, which will also air on TNT. The series’ current cast, already locked down for the TV movies, is presumed to be returning for the fifth season. The first new episode produced will actually be seen in syndication as the final Babylon 5 episode aired on PTEN, since the final episode of the fourth season – always intended to be the very last episode of the series as a whole – will now be held back.
Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off on an almost-ten-day mission to dock with the Russian space station Mir. The first docking proves to be a chore, as the Mir crew has to move one of the station’s modules to a different docking port to accomodate the shuttle. The historic docking – the first joint operation between the two countries since the Apollo-Soyuz mission almost exactly 20 years earlier – results in the largest man-made object in space to date. Aboard Atlantis are Commander Robert Gibson, Pilot Charles Precourt, and mission specialists Ellen Baker, Bonnie Dunbar and Gregory Harbaugh; cosmonauts Anatoly Solovyev and Nikolai Budarin are transported to Mir aboard Atlantis to become part of Mir Expedition 19, while Expedition 18 crew members Norman Thagard, Vladimir Dezhurov and Gannady Strekalov return to Earth after more than three months aboard Mir.
Alan Parsons releases the live album The Very Best Live, featuring several familiar Alan Parsons Project singles in a live performance and three new studio tracks.
MCA Records releases an album of sougs – and a few of James Horner‘s soundtrack selections – from Apollo 13.
Activision releases the Robot Tank cartridge for the Atari 2600 home video game system, Activision’s answer to Atari’s home verison of Battlezone. As usual, Activision raises the ante with such features as a night vision mode and multiple targets.
Soyuz T-9 lifts off from the Soviet Union, bringing a new long-term crew to space station Salyut 7. Cosmonauts Vladimir Lyakhov and Aleksandr Aleksandrov take up residence on Salyut 7 for a 150-day stay, including work aboard the recently-docked Kosmos 1443 temporary space station module. The disastrous failure of the next Soyuz mission to reach orbit means that Lyakhov and Aleksandrov spend their entire stay in orbit with no visits from other crews. They return to Earth on November 23rd.
Space Shuttle Columbia lifts off for the fourth and final shuttle “test flight” before NASA’s Space Transportation System is declared fully operational. Remaining in orbit for a full week, Commander Ken Mattingly and Pilot Henry Hartsfield deliver the shuttle program’s first payload for the Department of Defense, as well as some of the first student-submitted experiment packages flown in the shuttle program. Both of Columbia’s solid rocket boosters, which are considered a reusable part of the launch vehicle, are lost at sea when their parachutes fail to deploy after separation and the boosters slam into the Atlantic Ocean; neither of the rockets are able to be recovered.
Arista Records releases Frogs, Sprouts, Clogs & Krauts, the first album by The Rumour, best known for being Graham Parker’s backing band.
Soyuz 30 lifts off en route to a brief visit with the crew of space station Salyut 6. This is the second manned Interkosmos mission, with cosmonaut Pyotr Klimuk and the first Polish cosmonaut, Mirosław Hermaszewski, aboard. They dock at Salyut 6 after two days in orbit, and spend a total of eight days in space. Though some joint experiments are conducted among the four occupants of the station, the Soyuz 30 crew frequently has to perform experiments in its own Soyuz vehicle to avoid getting in the station crew’s way, and the mission is kept short to free up the second docking port for a Progress unmanned supply vehicle launched four days after Soyuz 30 returns to Earth.
In Santa Clara, California, Atari is formed by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney. The company is initially part of Bushnell’s desire to continue competing in the coin-operated game market, where he believes video games can take part of the market share from pinball, but consumer products are not far from Bushnell’s mind either: two weeks before Atari’s incorporation, he attends a Magnavox product fair and gets a first-hand look at the first home video game console.
The first-ever American-made science fiction television series, Captain Video And His Video Rangers, debuts on the DuMont Television Network. Originated live from a studio in New York City, the series is aimed squarely at younger viewers, but in years to come the show will enjoy scripts written by such science fiction luminaries as Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Jack Vance, Robert Sheckley, and James Blish. The series runs five nights a week for six years.