ESSAThe recently-rechristened Environmental Sciences Service Administration launches, with the help of NASA, ESSA-7, the latest in a constellation of weather satellites operated by the former U.S. Weather Bureau. Like many of the other ESSA satellites, technical problems plague ESSA-7, and its camera system fails within a year. Engineering tests are carried out with ESSA-7 after it goes blind until the satellite is shut down early in 1970.

All aboard the Pluto-Kuiper Express

PKEWith NASA/JPL’s Pluto Fast Flyby mission cancelled, a new mission is proposed by several scientists and engineers, including veterans of the Voyager program, to send a small spacecraft to Pluto. Originally named Pluto Express, and later Pluto-Kuiper Express, the unmanned spacecraft would be armed with a handful of scientific instruments (as opposed to Pluto Fast Flyby’s camera-only proposal). Plans call for launch via a Delta Heavy rocket or from the cargo bay of a Space Shuttle in 2004, a Jupiter gravity assist flyby in 2006, and a Pluto flyby in 2012. Though there are early talks with the Russian space program about including landers or penetrators, that element of the mission is dropped soon afterward.

Majel Barrett exits Roddenberry series

Majel Barrett in Earth: Final ConflictCiting too many cooks in the kitchen, Majel Barrett Roddenberry bails out as executive producer of both Earth: Final Conflict and Andromeda, two weekly syndicated shows spawned by unfinished scripts and outlines written by her late husband, Gene Roddenberry. Barrett joins many fans in voicing disapproval with the new direction of E:FC’s upcoming fifth season (which seems to be dispensing with a majority of series continuity). Her recurring character on E:FC, Dr. Belman, will make no further appearances.

Sci-Fi Channel rescues Stargate SG-1

Stargate SG-1It turns out that the “final season” of Stargate SG-1 isn’t quite so final. The Sci-Fi Channel picks the series up from Showtime for a new season of 22 episodes, set to begin filming in January 2002. Sci-Fi also announces plans to begin airing daily reruns of SG-1 starting in 2002, possibly to coincide with the broadcast of the new episodes. The deal to salvage the show is intended to give it one final season that it would have been denied by Showtime, though the eventual ratings will change the minds of Sci-Fi’s management.

Cassini gets mooned at Saturn

s/2004 S!Mere weeks after entering orbit around the huge ringed planet, the Cassini is already making impressive discoveries at Saturn. NASA announces that Cassini images have uncovered two previously undiscovered moons in orbit of the ringed planet, and they’re among the smallest bodies that have yet been detected in space, each barely 2 miles in diameter. They’re given the provisional names s/2004 S1 and s/2004 S2, and await further verification of their size and orbits – and undoubtedly other members of Saturn’s family are waiting to be captured by Cassini’s cameras in the course of its planned four-year survey of the planet and its moons.