TIROS-9

TIROSNASA and the United States Weather Bureau launch the ninth experimental TIROS weather satellite, TIROS-9. Heavier than any of the other TIROS experimental satellites, and with cameras mounted on opposite sides of the satellite’s cylindrical body to keep the Earth in view at all times. The result, in February, is the first-ever snapshot of the entire world’s weather patterns within a single day. TIROS-9 also carries other upgrades being considered for an upcoming fleet of full-time operational weather satellites, and remains in service for three and a half years.

Ranger 8

RangerNASA launches the Ranger 8 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. Ranger 8 functions flawlessly, sending pictures back to Earth until it slams into the Sea of Tranquility at high speed. Over 7,000 photos are returned, with the last complete picture transmitted prior to impact showing lunar surface features as small as five feet across.

Voskhod 2: the first spacewalk

Voskhod 2Voskhod 2 is launched by the Soviet Union, this time with only a two-man crew for a very specific mission. Cosmonauts Pavel Belyaev and Alexei Leonov orbit Earth for 28 hours, but during one orbit an airlock is extended from the side of their Voskhod capsule and Leonov squeezes through the airlock tunnel in a spacesuit, becoming the first human being to exit his spacecraft in flight. He spends 10 minutes walking in space, but this Soviet space first nearly ends badly; Leonov’s suit “inflates” as a result of pressurization, making it extremely difficult to enter the vehicle again (and nearly overexerting him in the process of getting back inside). A guidance system malfunction forces Belyaev to manually control the vehicle during reentry and descent, but Voskhod 2’s crew capsule lands over 700 miles away from Moscow in a remote wilderness in the dead of winter, and the cosmonauts wait hours for a recovery team to rescue them via helicopter.

Ranger 9

RangerNASA launches the Ranger 9 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. Despite NASA scientists’ insistence that the last Ranger probe carry scientific instruments and not just cameras, Ranger 9 is outfitted with cameras only; as a tradeoff, scientists get to nominate its target on the surface, selecting the crater Alphonsus, suspected to be a site of lunar volcanism. Ranger 8 functions flawlessly, sending live video back to Earth until impacting in the crater floor, and for the first time the terminal descent of one of the Ranger probes is broadcast live on TV. This concludes the Ranger program, as NASA now needs to switch its efforts to the unmanned Surveyor lunar landers to find out if the moon’s surface can support the weight of a manned lander. The basic architecture of the Ranger spacecraft is adopted as the heart of the ongoing Mariner planetary space probe series, up to and including the Mariner Jupiter/Saturn ’77 missions (later renamed Voyager) over a decade later.

Gemini 3

Gemini 3The first two-man American space crew lifts off in the first manned flight of NASA’s Gemini program. With a larger, more maneuverable spacecraft designed for longer stays in space, Gemini is intended to be a stepping stone on the path to the first lunar landing, allowing astronauts to practice rendezvous, docking, and orbital changes. Aboard the Gemini capsule are Mercury veteran Gus Grissom and rookie John Young; the capsule is unofficially nicknamed “Molly Brown” (a reference to Grissom’s sunken Mercury capsule). The flight lasts barely five hours and includes the first-ever orbital attitude changed made by a manned spacecraft.

Intelsat I: The Early Bird

Intelsat I Early Bird satelliteBuilt for COMSAT (Communications Satellite Corporation) by Hughes Aircraft, borrowing heavily from the design of the successful Syncom experimental satellites earlier in the decade, Intelsat I is launched into a geosynchronous orbit over the Atlantic Ocean, providing telephone, TV, and fax communication via satellite between the United States and Europe. Intelsat I, nicknamed “Early Bird”, doesn’t go operational until COMSAT has completed diagnostics and engineering tests; its first operational use is in June 1965. It will provide satellite transmission of the first live TV coverage of a returning space mission (the splashdown of Gemini 6 in December 1965), and it will be an integral part of the international satellite links necessary for the Our World broadcast in 1967. Despite being retired from regular use in January 1969, it will be reactivated in June 1969 to handle some of the television coverage of the first lunar landing.

Palm Sunday Tornado Outbreak

1965 Palm Sunday tornado outbreakOn the 45th anniversary of a similar severe weather event, a major outbreak of violent tornadoes strikes the northern midwest, causing 271 deaths and over a thousand injuries in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, and Michigan; 137 of the deaths occur in Indiana alone. With weather radar still in its infant state, a radio station in Cedar Rapids spots the first storm on its own radar, while nearby National Weather Service offices do not have radar yet. The U.S. Weather Bureau’s confusing system of “tornado forecasts” and “tornado alerts” is changed to more clearly delineated “watches” and “warnings” after this event.