Tales Of Tomorrow: The Invader

Tales Of TomorrowThe 14th episode of ABC’s science fiction anthology series, Tales Of Tomorrow, airs on ABC, with each episode’s opening titles proclaiming that the series is produced “in cooperation with the Science-Fiction League of America”, a collective of sci-fi writers including Isaac Asimov and Theodore Sturgeon among its members. This episode stars Eva Gabor, and sees the series returning to a weekly schedule after the end of Versatile Varieties’ run on ABC.

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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.

Doctor Who: The Dead Planet

Doctor WhoThe fifth episode of Doctor Who airs on the BBC. The Dead Planet is part one of the story now collectively known as The Daleks, the first story to feature the Doctor’s future arch-rivals, in a script written by Terry Nation (who had only taken the job writing for Doctor Who when his steady gig writing material for comedian Tony Hancock came to an abrupt end). In this episode, only the “sucker cup” of a Dalek is seen in the closing seconds.

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Luna 13

Luna 13The Soviet Union launches unmanned space probe Luna 13 toward the moon, where it becomes the third space vehicle to successfully make a soft landing on the lunar surface. Larger than its Soviet predecessor, Luna 9, Luna 13 measures the temperature, radiation, and hardness of the moon’s surface, all useful information to have in advance of a manned landing. After operating on the lunar surface for four days, the Luna 13 lander’s batteries are exhausted and the mission is over.

Apollo 8

Apollo 8Moved ahead in the schedule due to ongoing difficulties with the construction of the lunar module, Apollo 8 lifts off from Cape Canaveral on a mission that represents NASA’s biggest gamble yet in the race for the moon: on only the second manned Apollo flight, astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders will go to the moon, orbit it in their command/service module, and return to Earth (the lunar module is still in the late stages of development). Mission planners plot out a free return trajectory – ensuring that without engines, Apollo 8 could loop around behind the moon and swing back toward home.

This mission is dramatized in the 1968 episode of HBO’s 1998 series From The Earth To The Moon.

The Owl Service

The Owl ServiceThe first episode of children’s fantasy series The Owl Service premieres on British broadcast Granada Television, one of their first productions in color (though its first broadcast run is in black & white). The series, adapted by novelist Alan Garner from his own novel, comes in for criticism over disturbing scenes and language (despite the book having been critically acclaimed).

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Cosmos: Who Speaks For Earth?

The 13th and final episode of Carl Sagan’s groundbreaking science documentary series Cosmos premieres on PBS. A popular history of science and scientific theory vs. tradition and superstition, segueing into Sagan’s field of expertise (astrophysics), Cosmos is a major milestone in American documentary filmmaking and the popularization of science and the scientific method (and makes an instant celebrity out of Sagan).

Blake’s 7: Blake

Blake's 7BBC1 premieres the 52nd and final episode of Terry Nation’s science fiction series Blake’s 7. By all accounts one of the most memorable and unsettling television finales ever, the final episode hints strongly that evil has triumphed, and some viewers already experiencing depression as the Christmas holiday closes in are extremely disturbed by the series’ conclusion. Gareth Thomas guest stars as Blake, bringing the series full circle.

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Vega 2 launched

Vega 1Just days after its twin lifts off, the unmanned Vega 2 space probe is launched by the Soviet Union on a dual mission to drop off a lander at Venus and then to intercept Halley’s Comet in 1986. Derived from the USSR’s earlier Venera Venus landers, Vega 2 will test a refined landing system for landing on Venus by balloon, and will then join an international fleet of unmanned spacecraft attempting to take advantage of Halley’s visit to the inner solar system in late 1985 and early 1986.

Soyuz TM-4 / Mir Expedition 3

Soyuz TM-4The Soyuz TM-4 mission is launched by the Soviet Union, en route to space station Mir. Cosmonauts Vladimir Titov and Musa Manarov take up residence as the new long-duration crew aboard Mir, formally known as Expedition 3, and they eventually break all previous space endurance records by staying aboard Mir for exactly one year and one day, returning to Earth on December 21st, 1988. Cosmonaut Anatoli Levchenko, after the week-long overlap with the Expedition 2 crew, returns to Earth with Expedition 2 crew members Yuri Romanenko and Aleksandr Aleksandrov aboard the Soyuz TM-3 vehicle.

Soyuz TMA-03M

Soyuz TMA-03MPart of the 30th full-time crew of the International Space Station lifts off from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome aboard Soyuz TMA-03M. Oleg Kononenko, Andr√© Kuipers and Donald Pettit take up residence on the ISS for 194 days, becoming part of the Expedition 29/30 crews. All three return to Earth in July 2012 aboard the same vehicle.

SpaceX sticks the landing from orbit

SpaceX Falcon 9For the first time since a failed Dragon capsule launch to the International Space Station in June, SpaceX launches its Falcon 9 rocket with a payload of 11 OrbComm mini-satellites. After the second stage separates to go on to successfully deploy the OrbComm satellites, the first stage performs three engine burns to return for a stable landing. For the first time (after two previous attempts on oceangoing unmanned barges), the Falcon 9 drops to a gentle landing at a designated landing zone at Cape Canaveral, potentially paving the way for rockets whose first stages can return home for refurbishing and relaunch.