Ranger 6

RangerNASA launches the Ranger 6 lunar probe, built by Jet Propulsion Laboratory and intended to go directly to the moon, transmitting pictures of the surface back to Earth until it impacts the lunar surface. After a year of fundamentally redesigning the Ranger vehicle, and dropping nearly all scientific experiments on board other than the television cameras (to the dismay of the scientific community), Ranger 6 is an attempt to redeem the troubled unmanned lunar program, and it hits the moon on schedule, but a power failure has fried its cameras prior to activation. NASA launches another internal investigation, with the entire Ranger program now on the line (and highly visible, since it has been made part of the preparation for crewed Apollo lunar flights). A Congressional inquiry follows, with a very clear implication that another failed Ranger flight could have far-reaching consequences for NASA and JPL.

Doctor Who: The Rescue

Doctor WhoThe 11th episode of Doctor Who airs on the BBC. The Rescue (not to be confused with the second-season story of the same name) is part seven of the story now collectively known as The Daleks, the first story to feature the Doctor’s future arch-rivals. In this story, paradoxically, the Doctor and his companions witness the extinction of the Daleks, as neither the BBC nor Terry Nation had anticipated the creatures’ popularity. Plans are already afoot to hire Nation to write a sequel featuring the Daleks; presumably all future stories featuring the Daleks take place before this one.

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Ladies and gentlemen, the Beatles!

The Beatles and Ed SullivanIntroduced to an audience of screaming teenagers on national television, the Beatles make their American TV debut on the Ed Sullivan Show. The band, whose TV premiere takes place during their first trip to the States, play five songs to rapturous applause. (Ironically, Sullivan’s other musical act of the evening is a young actor named Davy Jones, later of the Monkees.) An audience estimated to be 73 million viewers strong watches this seismic moment in American pop culture, ushering in years of wanna-be sound-alikes both foreign and domestic referred to as the British Invasion.

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Doctor Who: The Brink Of Disaster

Doctor WhoThe 13th episode of Doctor Who airs on the BBC. The Brink Of Disaster is part two of the story now collectively known as The Edge Of Destruction, the first story – and one of very few in the series’ entire history – to take place entirely within the TARDIS. This episode completes the BBC’s initial commitment to produce 13 episodes of the series, and the ratings – partcularly where the Dalek episodes are concerned – have proven promising enough for the go-ahead to be given to continue production on the remainder of the first season.

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The National Severe Storms Laboratory

NSSLTo further research into the formation and evolution of severe weather in the midwestern United States, the U.S. Weather Bureau establishes the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Oklahoma. Operating in close cooperation with the University of Oklahoma’s meteorology department and the Severe Local Storms Warning Service in Kansas City, the NSSL focuses on improving prediction and detection of destructive weather, including tornadoes, quickly fixating upon the potential of Doppler radar.

Star Trek

Star TrekTelevision writer Gene Roddenberry, who has already written scripts for shows such as Have Gun, Will Travel, writes his first-draft series proposal for a new hour-long science fiction drama, which he calls Star Trek. The series involves the starship S.S. Yorktown, commanded by Captain Robert April. Roddenberry will spend several months refining his concept before it is bought by Desilu Studios and shopped around to the American television networks. At the time he’s writing the pitch, Roddenberry is still overseeing his first TV creation, a military series called The Lieutenant, which has enjoyed decent ratings but is leaving its network, NBC, nervous with its tendency to deal directly with issues related to the widening conflict in Vietnam.

The proverbial good science fiction movie

...and beyond the infiniteDirector Stanley Kubrick writes to author Arthur C. Clarke, initiating a lengthy discussion about “the proverbial really good science fiction movie”, a discussion which eventually leads to the movie (and novel) 2001: a space odyssey. Kubrick’s letter mentions that he is particularly interested in exploring the theme of the effects that first contact with an alien race would have on humanity.

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Zond 1

Zond 1The Soviet Union launches the space probe Zond 1 toward Venus, a more sophisticated version of the Venera 1 vehicle sent to that planet in 1961. Thanks to an electrical short within the Zond space probe, ground controllers lose all contact a month after it leaves Earth; by the time it swings past Venus at over 60,000 miles months later, Zond 1 has shut down completely.

The fire fountains of Surtsey

SurtseyNow nearly five months old, the volcanic island of Surtsey, still erupting and building up from the seafloor off the southern coast of Iceland, transitions to a new phase of its eruption. The explosive eruptions, caused by hot magma coming into direct contact with seawater, subside as the volcanic vents are now permanently above sea level. Almost a mile in diameter, Surtsey’s eruptions transition to lava fountains and lava flows, which harden as they are cooled by the coastal water. This harder material helps to protect Surtsey from being eroded away, and eruptions will continue to add more land area to Surtsey through 1965. Surtsey is almost ready for brief visits from human researchers, who will find life taking root on the island much sooner than expected.

Mercury’s shorter, but still very long, days

AreciboUsing the Arecibo Radio Telescope in Puerto Rico, a team of radio astronomers led by Gordon Pettengill makes the determination that Mercury rotates on its axis once every 59 Earth days, a much shorter “day” for Mercury than the previously estimated 88 Earth day rotation. Pettengill is a pioneer of radio and radar astronomy, and will go on to use both methods to study asteroids, Venus, and Earth’s moon.