Alex Kingston, Doctor Who actress, born

Alex Kingston as River SongActress Alex Kingston, a familiar face in both British and American television, is born in England. With a variety of roles on UK TV throughout the 1980s and ’90s, she will make the leap to American television in 1997 with a regular role on the hospital drama ER through 2004. In 2008 she will make her first appearance as Professor River Song, occasional companion and gadfly to the Doctor in Doctor Who, opposite both David Tennant and Matt Smith.

Nothing at the end of the lane

Doctor WhoMeetings commence at the BBC to hash out ideas for a new children’s science fiction series to be produced in-house, possibly involving a time machine, an aloof old man, a younger “man of action” character, a female scientist, and a younger woman. As the creative lightning rod of this series development, Sydney Newman begins to weed out ideas he considers unsuitable – such as giving these characters the roles of “science troubleshooters” working for the government – and homes in on the time travel idea, as well as the old man character, who emerges as a man of mystery. These are the first creative meetings from which the BBC’s Doctor Who will emerge.

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Luna 4 loses the landing

Luna 4An unmanned Soviet lunar lander, Luna 4, is launched from the USSR’s Baikonur Cosmodrome. Unlike Luna 2, which intentionally crashed into the moon with no attempt to slow its approach, Luna 4 is the first atempt at a vehicle intended to survive its descent to the lunar surface and make observations from the ground. A failed course correction engine burn leaves the 3,000-pound vehicle in a wide, looping orbit around the Earth, unable to reach the moon at all. The Soviet Union, after several more attempts, will eventually achieve the first unmanned soft landing on the surface of the moon three years later.

Mercury 9

Mercury 9The final manned Mercury flight, Mercury 9 (nicknamed Faith 7) puts astronaut Gordon Cooper in orbit for over a day. Over the course of 34 hours, Cooper circles Earth 22 times, performing small-scale experiments and photography tasks. With Mercury astronaut Deke Slayton grounded due to health issues, only six of the Mercury seven have flown. Development of a two-seater descendant of the Mercury design (initially called “Big Mercury” but now known as Gemini) is well underway, along with the development of the Apollo spacecraft that will succeed Gemini and take men to the moon. Cooper is the last solo American space pilot until Mike Melvill flies the experimental SpaceShip One into suborbital space in the 21st century.

Vostok 5

Valery BykovskyThe Soviet Union launches the Vostok 5 mission to orbit Earth, carrying cosmonaut Valery Bykovsky aboard. He remains in orbit for over four days, traveling over 2,000,000 miles in Earth orbit. As he flies over the Soviet Union, a second Vostok capsule is launched in the USSR’s first bid to trump the United States by mounting the first manned space rendezvous.

Vostok 6: first woman in space

Valentina TereshkovaWhile cosmonaut Valery Bykovsky orbits overhead about Vostok 5, Vostok 6 is launched from the Soviet Union, carrying the first female space traveler, cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova. Spending nearly three days in orbit, Tereshkova’s Vostok capsule serves as a rendezvous target for Vostok 5, though without precision piloting ability, the two vehicles’ closest approach is no closer than within three miles, and neither Vostok is actually equipped for any kind of docking. Tereshkova’s flight is a political point scored for the Soviet Union, but only a brief victory for womankind: it will be two more decades before another woman flies in space. The glass ceiling remains firmly in orbit.


TIROSNASA and the United States Weather Bureau launch the seventh experimental TIROS weather satellite, TIROS-7. In addition to observing weather on Earth, TIROS-7 carries instruments to measure electron activity in Earth’s vicinity and to measure the temperature of space. Enhancements designed to extend the satellite’s life prove to be wildly successful: TIROS-7 is the longest-lived of the experimental TIROS series, remaining in service for five years (and, critically, five hurricane seasons).

Syncom 2

Syncom 2NASA launches the experimental, Hughes Aircraft-built communications satellite Syncom 2 into a geosynchronous orbit, the first human-made satellite to occupy that orbit. (Syncom 1, launched in February, malfunctioned on its way to that orbit, so technically it could be considered the first, though it didn’t arrive in geosynchronous orbit in a functional state.) Capable of handling either a single two-way telephone call, or up to 16 simultaneous teletype transmissions. Early fax transmission tests were also carried out. Syncom 2 could also transmit low-quality video, but with no audio. Control of Syncom 2 is handed over to the Department of Defense in 1965 once NASA has completed its run of experimental communications tests.

The Vehicle Assembly Building

Vehicle Assembly BuildingConstruction commences on NASA’s massive Vehicle Assembly Building (originally named the Vertical Assembly Building), where the giant Saturn V rockets for Apollo lunar missions will be constructed, tested, and then rolled out to the launch pad atop huge mobile crawlers. Covering eight acres of land on Merritt Island, Florida, the building must withstand Florida’s notorious hurricane seasons (and protect any rockets under construction within) as well as the shockwaves of Saturn V rocket launches taking place only three miles away; special ventilation and humidity control systems have to be built as well, as the interior space is so voluminous that the building has its own internal weather! The VAB will later transition to the assembly of the Space Shuttle launch system elements and the Space Launch System boosters for the 21st century Orion program.

The Emergency Broadcast System

Emergency Broadcast SystemsRadio and television stations across the United States begin mandatory participation in the national Emergency Broadcast System, a nationwide civil defense alert network replacing the CONELRAD system of the 1950s. Much like CONELRAD, EBS tests and activations initially require the rapid shutdown and reactivation of transmitters, at least until that practice is abolished in favor of a two-tone warning sound in the 1970s. Though the switch from CONELRAD to EBS is sparked by the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, the EBS will later become more closely associated with severe weather warnings.

Doctor Who: the original pilot

Doctor WhoThe original pilot episode of Doctor Who – version 1.0 of An Unearthly Child – is filmed at the BBC’s Lime Grove Studios. Though it’s substantially the same script as the televised version – barring a line claiming that the Doctor and Susan are from Earth in the 49th century (!) – problems with the sets and props necessitate a complete reshoot on October 18th.

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Channel 37: all radio astronomy, all the time

Radio astronomyThe United States Federal Communications Commission places a ten-year hold on television station licenses for UHF channel 37. Channel 37’s bandwidth, in the 608-614 megahertz range, is vital to the burgeoning science of radio astronomy. The FCC immediately sets about reallocating channels on the UHF dial for 18 television stations across America, which had previously been allocated channel 37 on their licenses. One month later, the ban on broadcasting in that part of the spectrum is made global; no television station in the United States, Mexico, Canada, and several other countries will ever occupy those frequencies. When the ban comes up for review again in 1974, it will be made permanent, though a petition from radio astronomers to set aside channel 36 at that time will be denied.


AreciboNestled into a mountainous forest region of Puerto Rico, the Cornell University-funded Arecibo Radio Telescope officially begins operations. With a diameter of a thousand feet, this remains the world’s largest radio telescope until the 21st century. Studies of Earth’s ionosphere are high on the priority list, but radio astronomy isn’t far behind, and important discoveries are made at Arecibo within months of it opening.


SurtseyAn Icelandic fishing vessel investigates a column of smoke almost 30 miles off of Iceland’s southern coast, with the crew believing it to be another boat in distress. What the crew finds, however, is a new volcanic island poking out of the sea – a submarine eruption that has now broken the surface of the Atlantic. A column of airborne ash and gas rises miles into the air, and within a weak vigorous eruptions create a new island over 1500 feet long, rising 147 feet above sea level. The eruption continues violently, adding more land area to the island but keeping scientists (and sightseers) at bay. The island is named Surtsey after a figure in Norse mythology.

Doctor Who: An Unearthly Child

Doctor WhoThe first-ever episode of Doctor Who airs on the BBC. William Hartnell, Carole Ann Ford, William Russell and Jacqueline Hill star in An Unearthly Child, the first episode of a four-part story which launches the series. Though it’s a major television milestone in retrospect, much of the viewing audience is still reeling from the previous day’s assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and the series premiere goes unnoticed by many.

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Manned Orbiting Laboratory

MOLThe Air Force announces the Manned Orbiting Laboratory project, a joint venture with NASA to orbit a space station using modified Gemini capsules to launch specially selected Air Force crews for month-long stays in orbit. What isn’t revealed – but isn’t too hard to figure out – is that MOL’s mission is largely military, including orbital reconaissance: the station will essentially be a manned spy satellite. The Soviet Union responds by beginning to draw up plans for its own manned military space station, Almaz.

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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TIROSNASA and the United States Weather Bureau launch the eighth experimental TIROS weather satellite, TIROS-8. With TIROS-7 still fully operational, TIROS-8 expands coverage of Earth’s weather (including early detection and tracking of Hurricane Betsy, the first hurricane in American history to cause over $1,000,000,000 in damage) and tests new technology, including a high resolution, slow-scan imaging system. TIROS-8 is the second longest-lived of the early experimental TIROS satellites, remaining in service for three and a half years.

Doctor Who: The Survivors

Doctor WhoThe sixth episode of Doctor Who airs on the BBC. The Survivors is part two of the story now collectively known as The Daleks, the first story to feature the Doctor’s future arch-rivals. The Daleks are revealed in full, and their distinctive voices are heard, for the first time here, and schoolchildren begin imitating Daleks on playgrounds. Unexpected by anyone at the BBC, Doctor Who is suddenly a bona fide smash hit.

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