Travel back in time

Geeky History

1958

Project SCORE: first communication satellite

SCOREWith engineers and ground controllers working under absolute secrecy, the U.S. Advanced Research Projects Agency launches the Atlas rocket-based SCORE satellite, an experimental communications satellite capable of recording four-minute audio messages from the ground for later playback to another part of the world. Though the first communication transmitted to Earth by SCORE is a message from President Eisenhower wishing listeners a peaceful Christmas, there’s little doubt that it’s a thinly-veiled military hardware demonstration. SCORE remains in orbit for only a few weeks before burning up in Earth’s atmosphere.

1959

Luna 1

Luna 1With the international race for space technology supremacy heats up, the Soviet Union scores a first: the unmanned Luna 1 is the first human-made object to completely escape Earth’s gravity. Luna 1 is meant to impact the mon, but the nearly-800-pound space probe barely comes within 4,000 miles of the lunar surface. Luna 1 later becomes the first artificial object to orbit the sun, after running out of power at a point in deep space between the orbits of Earth and Mars. The state-run Soviet press agency gives Luna 1 a new name, Mechta, and tries to declare the wayward moonship a “new planet.”

Pioneer 4

Pioneer 4NASA’s Pioneer 4 space probe is launched toward the moon atop a Juno II booster. For the first time in the Pioneer program, the target is reached, with Pioneer 4 passing the moon at a distance of 37,000 miles. The television camera designed to activate just in time to catch the first glimpse of the lunar far side fails to deploy, thanks to a light sensor that isn’t tripped by the light reflected from the moon. Measurements of radiation near the moon are taken and transmitted back to Earth before Pioneer 4 slides into an orbit around the sun.

Weather radar, pre-Doppler

WRS-57 consoleThe U.S. Weather Bureau installs the first WSR-57 weather radar in what in intended to eventually be a network of weather radars spanning the entire country. Derived from World War II radars, the WSR-57 is first installed at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, where it offers as much as two days’ advance notice of storms approaching the Florida coast in the years before weather satellites. This radar remains in service until 1992, when it is literally ripped off the NHC’s roof by the winds of Hurricane Andrew. It is later replaced by a WSR-88 NEXRAD radar, though by that time satellite imagery has become the primary means of remotely detecting major tropical weather events.

Explorer 6

Explorer 6NASA launches the Earth-orbiting satellite Explorer 6 atop a Thor-Able rocket, intended to study various space and upper atmospheric phenomena, as well as to take photos of Earth with an experimental camera system designed to refine engineering concepts for monitoring weather from orbit. Explorer 6 does indeed capture the first (admittedly less than ideal) photo of Earth taken from orbit, from a vantage point of 17,000 miles above Mexico in its elliptical orbit. Explorer 6 will remain in orbit for just under two years.

Luna 2

Luna 2Soviet space scientists and engineers score another first, launching Luna 2 toward the moon with the intention of a successful crash landing, with the unmanned vehicle sending back data until it is destroyed in the impact. With no engines of its own, Luna 2 is at the mercy of whatever trajectory is imparted to it by its booster rocket, ultimately taking a day and a half to slam into the lunar dust near the flat plain known as Mare Imbrium. A small metal sphere aboard Luna 2 bears the year and country of origin; a replica of that sphere is later presented to American President Eisenhower by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.

Luna 3: first look at the moon’s far side

Luna 3The Soviet Union’s Luna 3 unmanned probe is launched toward the moon, where it transmits the first images of the moon’s far side back to Earth – a sight that has never been seen by humans before since the moon’s near side is tidally locked toward Earth. Luna 3’s closest pass to moon brings it to within 4,000 miles of the lunar surface, and despite low signal strength and data errors during transmission, nearly 20 images of the moon’s far side are sent back to Soviet scientists via a process not unlike sending a fax.

Twilight Zone: Walking Distance

Twilight ZoneCBS airs the fifth episode of Rod Serling’s anthology series The Twilight Zone. Gig Young stars (and a very young Ron Howard guest stars) in a script written by Serling.

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Twilight Zone: The Lonely

Twilight ZoneCBS airs the seventh episode of Rod Serling’s anthology series The Twilight Zone. Jack Warden (Being There) and Jean Marsh (Doctor Who, Willow) star in a script written by Serling.

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Twilight Zone: Time Enough At Last

Twilight ZoneCBS airs the eighth episode of Rod Serling’s anthology series The Twilight Zone. Burgess Meredith (Batman, Rocky) stars in a script written by Serling, adapted from a short story by Lynn Venable. This episode will later be considered, by both fans of the show and critics of television and drama in general, to be one of The Twilight Zone’s all-time classic episodes.

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Twilight Zone: Perchance To Dream

Twilight ZoneCBS airs the ninth episode of Rod Serling’s anthology series The Twilight Zone. Richard Conte stars in a script written by Charles Beaumont. This is the first episode of the series not to be scripted by Serling.

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Twilight Zone: Judgment Night

Twilight ZoneCBS airs the tenth episode of Rod Serling’s anthology series The Twilight Zone. Nehemiah Persoff and Patrick Macnee (The Avengers) star in a script written by Serling.

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Ranger

RangerNASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech begin developing a set of guidelines for what is projected to be a series of five lunar missions, involving vehicles that will photograph the moon from approach to impact, transmitting the images back to Earth live. These guidelines are the beginning of the Ranger program, though technical difficulties will eventually result in nearly twice the number of Ranger unmanned vehicles than originally anticipated.

Twilight Zone: What You Need

Twilight ZoneCBS airs the 12th episode of Rod Serling’s anthology series The Twilight Zone. Serling himself adapts the darkly humorous (but not specifically Christmas-themed) script from a Lewis Padgett short story.

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1960

Twilight Zone: The Four Of Us Are Dying

Twilight ZoneCBS airs the 13th episode of Rod Serling’s anthology series The Twilight Zone. Philip Pine and Beverly Garland star in Serling’s adaptation of a story by George Clayton Johnson (Logan’s Run), featuring music by a young Jerry Goldsmith.

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Twilight Zone: The Hitch-Hiker

Twilight ZoneCBS airs the 16th episode of Rod Serling’s anthology series The Twilight Zone. Serling adapts a radio play of the same name by Lucille Fletcher, even going so far as to reuse Bernard Hermann’s music from the radio production.

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Twilight Zone: The Purple Testament

The Twilight ZoneThe 19th episode of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone airs on CBS. Dick York (Bewitched) and Ron Masak (Laserblast) star in an episode written by Serling.

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Twilight Zone: Elegy

The Twilight ZoneThe 20th episode of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone airs on CBS. Jeff Morrow and Kevin Hagen star.

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Twilight Zone: Mirror Image

The Twilight ZoneThe 21st episode of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone airs on CBS. Vera Miles stars in an episode written by Serling.

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Twilight Zone: The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street

The Twilight ZoneThe 22nd episode of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone airs on CBS. Claude Akins and Barry Atwater star in an episode written by Serling that is generally regarded as one of the high points of the entire series.

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Twilight Zone: A World Of Difference

The Twilight ZoneThe 23rd episode of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone airs on CBS. Howard Duff and Eileen Ryan star in an episode written by Richard Matheson.

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Twilight Zone: Long Live Walter Jameson

The Twilight ZoneThe 24th episode of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone airs on CBS. Kevin McCarthy and Estelle Winwood star in an episode written by Charles Beaumont.

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Twilight Zone: People Are Alike All Over

The Twilight ZoneThe 25th episode of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone airs on CBS. Roddy McDowall (Planet Of The Apes) and Susan Oliver (Star Trek) star in Serling’s adaptation of a Paul Fairman short story.

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Chris Barrie, Red Dwarf actor, born

Chris Barrie as RimmerFuture Red Dwarf cast member Chris Barrie is born in West Germany to British parents. Developing a knack for vocal impersonations at an early age, Barrie aims for a comedy career after dropping out of college and quickly becomes a frequent guest actor on television (The Young Ones, Blackadder). He also provides vocal impersonations and spoken word soundbytes on songs by Art of Noise and Frankie Goes To Hollywood. After appearing in a radio sketch called “Dave Hollins, Space Cadet” written by Rob Grant & Doug Naylor, he lands the role of Arnold Rimmer in Red Dwarf – a science fiction sitcom created by Grant & Naylor, whose inspiration can be traced back to that radio sketch.

TIROS-1

Tiros-1The very first weather satellite, TIROS-1, is launched by the United States. Built under contract by RCA, the nearly-300-pound satellite’s black & white cameras offer the first view of Earth’s cloud systems and weather patterns from orbit. Tiros-1 remains operational for just 78 days, but proves the viability of relying on satellites for weather observation and forceasting.

Twilight Zone: Execution

The Twilight ZoneThe 26th episode of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone airs on CBS. Albert Salmi and Russell Johnson (Gilligan’s Island) star in an episode scripted by Serling from a story by George Clayton Johnson (Logan’s Run).

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Twilight Zone: The Big Tall Wish

The Twilight ZoneThe 27th episode of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone airs on CBS. Ivan Dixon and Kim Hamilton star in an episode written by Serling.

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Twilight Zone: A Nice Place To Visit

The Twilight ZoneThe 28th episode of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone airs on CBS. Sebastian Cabot (Ghost Story) stars in an episode written by Charles Beaumont.

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Twilight Zone: Nightmare As A Child

The Twilight ZoneThe 29th episode of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone airs on CBS. Janice Rule and Terry Burnham star in an episode written by Serling and scored by a young Jerry Goldsmith.

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Twilight Zone: A Stop At Willoughby

The Twilight ZoneThe 30th episode of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone airs on CBS. James Daly and Howard Smith star in an episode written by Serling.

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