RDS-1The Soviet Union detonates its first nuclear weapon, internally code named RDS-1, near a specially-built “dummy” village which includes various structures, aircraft and other military hardware, and livestock, all present to test the effects of an atomic weapon detonation in their vicinity. Western intelligence is caught off guard when the radioactive fallout is picked up by detection equipment on weather reconnaissance flights between Japan and Alaska, as the Soviets were not expected to have their own nuclear weapons until sometime in the 1950s. This is a turning point in the Cold War, initiating the race toward the next evolution of nuclear weapons: the hydrogen, or thermonuclear, bomb.

Soyuz TM-6

Soyuz TM-6The Soviet Union launches the Soyuz TM-6 mission to the Mir space station, with cosmonauts Vladimir Lyakhov, Valeri Polyakov and Abdul Ahad Mohmand aboard. Lyakhov and Mohmand remain aboard Mir for only a week, participating in experiments involving both crews, but Polyakov, a medical doctor, remains on Mir to monitor the Expedition 3 crew in the final months of their unprecedented one-year stay in orbit. This crew exchanges spacecraft with the station crew, returning home in the Soyuz TM-5 vehicle after a week on Mir, but their return is plagued by problems both technical and otherwise.

Mega-eruption on Io

IoAstronomers using the Keck Observatory’s Hawaii-based telescopes and near-infrared cameras capture an image of a devastating volcanic eruption on Io, one of Jupiter’s largest moons (and known since 1979 to be very volcanically active). The eruption, unleashing enough molten material to reshape hundreds of square miles of Io’s surface, also reveals that the material erupted is hotter than any eruption in Earth’s recorded history. This is the most violent eruption seen to date in the solar system, and caps off two weeks of intense activity observed by the astronomers.

Gene Wilder, actor, dies

Gene Wilder as Willy WonkaActor and writer Gene Wilder, whose uncanny comic timing made him the star of numerous Mel Brooks comedies as well as the unnerving lead in 1971’s movie adaptation Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory, dies at the age of 83 from complications related to Alzheimer’s Disease. He was a regular part of Brooks’ all-star ensemble, starring in such movies as The Producers, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, and co-starred in numerous comedies with Saddles co-star Richard Pryor, including Stir Crazy, Bustin’ Loose, Silver Streak, and See No Evil, Hear No Evil.