Loaded into an aerodynamic shroud atop an Atlas V rocket, the U.S. Air Force launches the X-37B unmanned spacecraft into Earth orbit. Originally scheduled for an October launch, the Boeing-built X-37B resembles a scaled-down Space Shuttle. Whereas this vehicle had previously stayed in space for several months in 2010 before returning, its second flight sees it remain in orbit for nearly two years, not coming in for an automated landing until October 2014. Details of the vehicle’s mission and payload remain classified; the flight is designated USA-240.
NASA orders the crew of the International Space Station to cut back on meals. Without the Space Shuttle delivering supplies to the station, resupply missions have been flown only by Russia’s much smaller unmanned Progress capsules, but the station was never designed to be restocked by Progress alone. Astronaut Leroy Chiao and cosmonaut Salizhan Sharipov are ordered to cut back on calories – with a reduction in workload to match – until more food arrives on a Progress capsule scheduled for liftoff on Christmas Eve. A failure of that flight could lead to an order to abandon the station.
The 36th episode of the Star Trek prequel spinoff Enterprise premieres on UPN.
Paramount debuts Star Trek: Insurrection in theaters, featuring the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation directed by their own co-star, Jonathan Frakes. Written by former TNG executive producer Michael Piller, the writer responsible for the fan-favorite TV two-parter The Best Of Both Worlds, this movie’s development is somewhat troubled, and its increased reliance on humor earns mixed reviews.
Sci-Fi Channel premieres the fifth episode of Lexx, commencing the show’s second season. For some time, Lexx remains Sci-Fi Channel’s most-watched original series, thanks in no small part to a promotional campaign which must overcome, among other things, the series’ name change (following Showtime’s broadcast of the four-movie first season as “Tales From A Parallel Universe”).
Lewis Galoob Toys releases its first wave of toys from Star Trek: The Next Generation, consisting of six characters (all members of the Enterprise crew) and a die-cast metal miniature starship Enterprise. While there’s an instant interest from Star Trek collectors, Galoob is perhaps a bit premature: the series upon which its toys are based is in the middle of a very uneven first season, and has demonstrated more appeal to older viewers than to the age group that normally buys action figures. A more successful line, geared more toward adult collectors, will surface in the 1990s.
ABC airs the 14th episode of Electra Woman & Dyna Girl, part of the Krofft Supershow Saturday morning children’s programming block. This is part two of a two-part story, each episode lasting only around 12 minutes. Tiffany Bolling guest stars.
NASA launches the Nimbus 5 satellite, designed to observe weather patterns from orbit and test new weather and climate detection technologies. Launched into a polar orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, Nimbus 5 includes newly-developed experiments to examine Earth in the microwave and infrared portions of the spectrum.
NASA and the newly-rechristened National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (formerly ESSA) launch NOAA-1, a weather satellite intended to operate in a near-polar low Earth orbit. Equipped with four cameras, NOAA-1 will operate in orbit for nearly a year before it begins suffering equipment malfunctions. Overheating in the spacecraft’s attitude control system forces ground controllers to turn off some of its weather sensing equipment, and NOAA-1 will eventually be shut down in August 1971.
The 95th episode of Doctor Who airs on the BBC. This is part five of the mammoth 12-part story now collectively known as The Daleks’ Master Plan. This is one of only three parts of the story not missing from the BBC’s archives.
CBS airs the 11th episode of Rod Serling’s anthology series The Twilight Zone. Rod Taylor stars in a Charles Beaumont adaptation of a Richard Matheson short story.