ColumbiaSpace Shuttle Columbia lifts off on a ten-day mission to deploy the LEASAT 5 communications satellite and retrieve the Long Duration Exposure Facility satellite that had been placed in orbit in 1984 by Challenger. (LDEF retrieval, delayed from 1985, had been put off by several additional years by the Challenger accident and its aftermath.) Aboard Columbia in this flight are Commander Daniel Brandenstein, Pilot James Wetherbee, and mission specialists Bonnie Dunbar, G. David Low, and Marsha Ivins.

Galileo at Venus

VenusNASA/JPL’s Galileo space probe – eventually bound for Jupiter – reaches the first destination on its looping “VEEGA” (Venus/Earth/Earth Gravity Assist) trajectory, the planet Venus. This flyby of Venus allows for testing of Galileo’s cameras and other science instruments, offering the first near-infrared views of the planet’s dense clouds, and the discovery that there is almost no water vapor in Venus’ thick carbon-dioxide atmosphere. The next “stop” for Galileo is Earth, mere months later.

Soyuz TM-9 / Mir Expedition EO-6

Soyuz TM-9Cosmonauts Anatoly Solovyev
and Aleksandr Balandin lift off from the Soviet Union aboard Soyuz TM-9, on their way to a stay aboard the Mir space station. Upon arriving at the station, an inspection of their spacecraft reveals that some of the Soyuz’ thermal blankets detached themselves during launch, though ground controllers decide against such drastic measures as cutting the mission short or launching Soyuz TM-10 early as a rescue mission. Solovyev and Balandin remain aboard Mir for 179 days, greeting the station’s next crew in August and returning to Earth without incident.

Voyager 1 looks homeward

Pale Blue DotAt the request of astronomer Carl Sagan, NASA and JPL reawaken Voyager 1‘s camera for a last look back at Earth and its solar system, from a mind-boggling distance of 4,000,000,000 miles. The “last look” is actually composed of 60 separate photos, capturing most of the planets (with the exception of Mars and Mercury), including Earth – which takes up less than a single pixel in the image. Sagan points to the image as evidence of the fragility and uniqueness of Earth, and names his next book after the photo, “Pale Blue Dot”, also centered on that theme.

Brent Bourgeois

Brent BourgeoisFormer Bourgeois Tagg frontman Brent Bourgeois releases his first solo album on Charisma Records, getting some minor airplay with singles “Dare To Fall In Love” and “Can’t Feel The Pain” (the latter featuring Fleetwood Mac veteran Christine McVie). The only other former Bourgeois Tagg member in evidence on the album is guitarist Lyle Workman, who continues recording with Bourgeois even when he jumps tracks to Christian music several years later.

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STS-31: launching Hubble

Space ShuttleIn the planning stages since the 1970s, and delayed by the post-Challenger-disaster downtime for the shuttle program, the Hubble Space Telescope is finally lifted into orbit aboard Space Shuttle Discovery. Hubble is just one of the scientific payloads for the five-day flight, with other experiments being conducted in the crew cabin and the cargo bay. Discovery’s crew for this flight is Commander Loren Shriver, Pilot Charles Bolden, and mission specialists Steven Hawley, Bruce McCandless and Kathryn Sullivan.

Hubble’s vision problem

Hubble Space TelescopeThe earliest test images from the Hubble Space Telescope alert ground-based astronomers to a serious problem: the telescope’s huge mirror has been ground to an incorrect shape, leaving the $2,000,000,000 telescope with a vision problem resulting in blurry pictures. Though they’re still an improvement over ground-based telescopes, the telescope’s main selling point – high-resolution images of distant objects – is moot. With the public considering the expensive satellite a failure (oblivious to the fact that it can be serviced via Space Shuttle), NASA begins an extensive investigation into the problem, arriving at a possible repair that can’t be applied until the first shuttle servicing mission to Hubble in 1993. In the meantime, attempts to correct the problem with Earthbound computer image processing yield some usable images.

Kristall module docks at Mir

Mir / KristallThe Soviet Union launches the Kristall module, whose pre-programmed systems bring it to the Mir space station for an automated docking. With facilities for material science experiments, additional gyroscopic stabilizers to keep Mir properly oriented, and other equipment, Kristall also features an extended docking port intended to allow the Soviet-made Buran shuttle to dock at Mir. In time, that docking port will allow a space shuttle to berth at Mir… but not the one its designers anticipate.

This is the last expansion made to Mir prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the last new module to arrive for five years.

Star Trek: TNG: The Best Of Both Worlds

Star Trek: The Next GenerationThe week-long national syndication window opens for the 73rd episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The season finale is the first part of a two-part cliffhanger (and three-episode arc), the first cliffhanger in the Star Trek franchise since the original series’ first season. The concept of Borg assimilation is introduced in this story.

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ELO: Afterglow

ELOFour years after the band’s formal breakup, CBS Records releases (with cooperation from frontman Jeff Lynne) a three-CD Electric Light Orchestra box set, Afterglow. Serving primarily as an elaborate greatest hits collection, the primary draw is the third disc, featuring many previously unheard songs that were “orphaned” when the group’s 1983 album Secret Messages was cut down from a double album to a single LP shortly before publication.

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Pluto 350

Pluto 350Encouraged by the public interest in Voyager 2’s recent visit to Neptune, scientist Robert Farquhar and graduate student Alan Stern pitch a concept for a compact mission, using hardware derived from the Voyager program, to the planet Pluto. Named Pluto 350, for the 350-kilogram upper weight limit decided on as a feasible and affordable launch weight, their proposed mission would launch in November 2001, have a close encounter with asteroid 1442 Corvina in 2002, then a return to Earth to catch a gravity assist in 2005, with a further gravity assist at Jupiter boosting Pluto 350 to its final target in 2015. In addition to pitching this plan to NASA, Farquhar and Stern appeal to the public by publishing a detailed six-page mission plan in the pages of the Planetary Society’s newsletter. However, a tendency toward larger spacecraft – such as the Mariner Mark II architecture envisioned for the upcoming Cassini and CRAF missions – means that Pluto 350 is not given serious consideration by NASA.