The unmanned Mangalayaan space probe arrives, intact and functioning, in Mars orbit, making India the first country on Earth to successfully reach Mars on its first attempt. (A high failure rate among past Mars missions has plagued both the Russian and American space programs.) A 23-minute engine burn slows Mangalayaan down enough to be captured by Mars’ gravity, but leaves the vehicle with twice the fuel reserves expected for its projected six-month mission.
Capitalizing on the popularity of Sarah Jane Smith and K-9 in a recent Doctor Who episode, CBBC premieres The Sarah Jane Adventures‘ second episode and third episode. The Slitheen, a recurring enemy in Doctor Who, return for the series relaunch, which also adds Daniel Anthony as new series regular Clyde Langer.
Fox premieres the two-hour pilot episode of Space: Above And Beyond, a military science fiction series created by X-Files writers Glen Morgan and James Wong. Shot in Australia with a huge budget, the series only lasts one seasons but gains an immediate fan following. F. Lee Ermey (Full Metal Jacket) guest stars.
After months of build-up and publicity (and not very many cable systems signing up to carry it), USA Network’s genre-specific offshoot Sci-Fi Channel launches on American cable TV. Its early schedule is comprised entirely of reruns of such series as Doctor Who, Dark Shadows, and several series from Gerry Anderson’s Century 21 Productions, as well as genre movies. In the years to come, Sci-Fi Channel begins originating its own programming (primarily by entering co-production deals with the makers of Canadian-made and other foreign-made genre series). A protest from a small but vocal number of industry figures and science fiction writers, all of whom object to the “derisive” term “sci-fi,” fails to convince the network’s Florida-based founders to change its name to “SF Network.”
The week-long national syndication window opens for the 74th episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Despite a summer of rumors (spread primarily via pre-internet computer bulletin board systems) involving cast members being killed off in the conclusion of the Borg two-parter, the regular cast returns, leaving Riker with the task of recovering and restoring the Borg-abducted Captain Picard. A soundtrack album for both parts of the story is released in 1991 by popular demand. This episode opens the series’ fourth season.
Sega releases the arcade game Tac/Scan in American arcades. The vector graphics coin-op switches rapidly between a traditional overhead view and a first-person view several times during each game, including a sequence in which players are asked to navigate a dizzying warp tunnel.
Activision releases the Megamania! cartridge for the Atari VCS home video game system. Inspired by the arcade game Astro Blaster, and subtitled “A Space Nightmare”, Megamania! pits players against airborne bow ties and hamburgers – and their own energy management skills. A national TV ad campaign featuring The Tubes heralds the game’s arrival.
The second episode of Glen A. Larson’s science fiction series Battlestar Galactica airs on ABC. Part one of a two-part story, this is one of a handful of two-part episodes that hint toward Larson’s original preference toward occasional miniseries events rather than a weekly series. Jane Seymour guest stars.