NASA and the United States Weather Bureau launch the first test article of the next-generation weather satellite, Nimbus-1. Using the more advanced camera technology (including infrared filters to watch cloud motion even on Earth’s night side) tested aboard TIROS-8, Nimbus-1 provides a vast improvement on satellite weather observations over the hardware on the TIROS experimental satellites. The first Nimbus satellite remains in service for only a month; later Nimbus satellites continue to be launched into service well into the late 1970s, and most of them remain operational into the 1980s.
Virgin Records releases Mike Oldfield‘s second prog-rock instrumental album, Hergest Ridge, the eagerly-awaited follow-up to his debut LP, Tubular Bells.
The first game generated by west coast programmers working for Taito’s new American game design division, Qix hits the arcades, reeling players in with its weird sound effects, abstract game play, and an enemy that anticipates the look of Windows screen savers years before either Windows or screen savers exist. Qix becomes an instant cult classic, though it proves to be nearly impossible to replicate with the current generation of home video game hardware.
NASA’s unmanned Voyager 2 space probe leaves the vicinity of the planet Neptune, the outermost planet to have been explored by a man-made spacecraft. (At this point in time, Pluto is still considered a planet – the only one to which NASA hasn’t sent a space probe – though by the time a vehicle is dispatched to Pluto in the 21st century, Pluto has been demoted to “minor planet” status.) Though not expected to function beyond 2025 due to the slow decay of its nuclear power source, Voyager 2 may survive long enough to pass within 25,000,000,000,000 miles of Sirius in a quarter of a million years.
Bound for Jupiter, the NASA/JPL unmanned space probe Galileo swings past the asteroid Ida, discovering – for the first time – an asteroid with its own satellite, a tiny body orbiting Ida. The satellite is later named Dactyl. This is only the second asteroid to be visited by a spacecraft from Earth, and Ida also marks Galileo’s last visit to a body in the solar system before a two-year cruise toward Jupiter.
Space Shuttle Discovery lifts off on the 128th shuttle flight, a two-week mission to the International Space Station. Supplies and equipment are delivered to the space station in a cargo-bay-mounted logistics module. Aboard Discovery for her 37th flight are Commander Rick Sturckow, Pilot Kevin Ford, and mission specialists Jose Hernandez, Danny Olivas, Nicole Stott, Christer Fuglesang and Patrick Forrester. Stott remains on the International Space Station, while station crewmember Timothy Kopra returns to Earth aboard the shuttle.