The first of two new American Mars rovers lands successfully on the red planet. The Mars rover Spirit enters the Martian atmosphere (and cleaves a path right through a dust storm), deploying thick layers of airbags that allow it to bounce safely until landing upright. This is the same landing system employed by the Pathfinder mission in 1997, but the unmanned robot probe in this case is much more sophisticated. Among the primary scientific objectives of Spirit’s mission is to determine if water existed on the surface of Mars for a significant length of time. The Spirit rover will undergo a series of diagnostics and won’t begin its mobile mission for several days. Its identical twin, a rover named Opportunity, will land in three weeks.
The BBC announces that a private collector has returned part two of the mostly-missing twelve-part Doctor Who story, The Daleks’ Master Plan, to its archives. Last seen in late 1965, the episode has been in the possession of the former chief engineer of the competing Yorkshire Television network ever since the early ’70s – when he snatched it from the BBC archives (where he was a trainee at the time) rather than destroying it as ordered. The 25-minute episode, subtitled Day Of Armageddon, is handed over to the Doctor Who Restoration Team, which oversees the preservation and restoration of past episodes for DVD release.
The internet-based fan film Star Trek: New Voyages (later Phase II) releases its first full-length episode, Come What May. Shot with homemade sets, costumes and props in upstate New York, the attention-getting project is greeted with enthusiasm by fans and with consternation by CBS/Paramount, which still has a Star Trek series (Enterprise) on television. The New Voyages group, led by James Cawley, is permitted to continue as long as no profit is made from its use of the Star Trek name, setting a precedent for future fan productions. As the group’s productions improve, it eventually disowns this pilot episode as one of its “official” adventures.
JPL engineers begin experiencing severe difficulty communicating with the Spirit Mars rover, which had successfully rolled off of its landing platform the previous week. Just as the rover is ready to begin its travels on the surface of Mars, it stops communicating with Earth, or with any orbiting spacecraft overhead. A command is transmitted to force Spirit to report its condition, and the resulting telemetry indicates that the rover has been continuously rebooting its internal computer system. By the weekend, after worries and warnings that Spirit would probably never regain 100% functionality, JPL’s engineers re-establish communications and received enough diagnostic information to narrow the problem down to Spirit’s flash memory and handling software. Engineers soon resolve the problem, transmitting instructions to work around the potentially corrupted memory, and restoring Spirit so it can continue its exploration.
The Opportunity rover, identical to Spirit, lands on schedule and on target in Mars’ Meridiani Planum region, but initial readings from the surface of Mars indicate that the landing pod containing Opportunity has come to rest on its side. Telemetry signals from Opportunity announce that the the rover has arrived safely and intact, ready to begin its mission, and the opening of the landing vehicle returns Opportunity to its intended upright position. As with Spirit, Opportunity will remain on its landing platform for several days undergoing a series of diagnostic tests before rolling off to the Martian surface for independent exploration, and engineers are keeping a close eye out for signs of a computer problem that has plagued Spirit for several days.
La-La Land Records releases the soundtrack CD from the two-part Sci-Fi Channel miniseries rebooting Battlestar Galactica, with music by Richard Gibbs and Bear McCreary. The music from the miniseries sets the template for the scoring of the early episodes of the weekly series, though the musical style of the show expands rapidly under the direction of McCreary (Gibbs opts not to return for the series).
After years of delays that forced a rewrite of the entire mission plan, the European Space Agency launches the Rosetta unmanned space probe on a looping, ten-year journey through the solar system that will hopefully take it to a rendezvous with Comet 67/P Churyumov–Gerasimenko in ten years. The mission plan calls for Rosetta to orbit the comet and release a small lander, Philae, to descend to its surface. In the intervening years, Rosetta will also have opportunities to study Mars and various asteroids as it passes by them. Rosetta’s mission profile is similar to that of NASA’s cancelled 1990s CRAF (Comet Rendezvous / Asteroid Flyby) mission.
Actress and casting director Cecily Adams, known to fans of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as Quark’s mother, Ishka (also known affectionately as “Moogie”), dies due to lung cancer. The daughter of Get Smart! star Don Adams, Ms. Adams had made appearances on DS9, Total Recall: 2070, Murphy Brown and Home Improvement. Behind the scenes, she lent her casting expertise to such series as Third Rock From The Sun, That 70s Show, Eerie, Indiana, and many others. She is survived by her husband and a two-year-old daughter.
Actor Paul Winfield, perhaps best known for his portrayal of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1978 TV miniseries King, dies of a heart attack at the age of 62. In genre circles, Mr. Winfield won praise for his portrayal of Captain Terrell of the Reliant in Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan and as General Richard Franklin in the GROPOs episode of Babylon 5, but perhaps his best genre outing was in a 1991 Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Darmok. He received Emmy nominations for his work in King and Roots: The Next Generation, as well as an Oscar nomination for Sounder; he finally took home an Emmy for a guest role on Picket Fences in 1995.
The Cassini spacecraft is close enough to Saturn to observe unusual transitory “clumps” in the planet’s ring system. First spotted by the Voyager space probes in the early 1980s, these clumps zip around Saturn’s outermost rings, following the direction of the planet’s own motion, but until now it hasn’t been possible to get close enough to study those clumps. Unlike the Voyagers, however, Cassini won’t be zipping past the planet at the speed of a bullet – it will enter an orbit around the planet in July and keep an eye on things.
Film Score Monthly releases a CD of music from the TV series Logan’s Run, with music by Laurence Rosenthal, Jeff Alexander, Jerrold Immel and Bruce Broughton.
NASA scientists unveil new findings from the two Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. While both rovers have found evidence of water erosion in rocks at their respective landing sites, the scientists now say that Opportunity’s landing site – a large crater – features rocks which show conclusive evidence of a large body of salt water, not unlike Earth’s oceans. While no definitive signs of life have been found by Opportunity or its identical twin, these findings continue to add up to a picture of Mars as a place where life once could have thrived.
The Levinhurst album Perfect Life is released, featuring the single “Hope”.
Bridging the gap between Star Wars Episode II and Episode III, Cartoon Network premieres the 20th mini-episode of Genndy Tartakovsky’s The Clone Wars animated shorts. The Clone Wars shorts return – in a slightly less short format – in the spring of 2005, running up to the theatrical release of Episode III; on DVD, this is also the end of Volume One. This installment marks the first appearance of General Grievous.
NASA announces that the Spirit rover has exceeded its mission goals of 90 continuous Martian days of operation since landing, with over 600 meters of the Martian surface covered. NASA applies for, and receives approval on, a plan to keep Spirit and Opportunity roving through September, almost tripling the rovers’ planned life span. The extended mission, made possible by a budget boost of $15 million, will give engineers the chance to try handing control over to the Rovers’ built-in systems, and it’ll afford a greater opportunity to examine the unusual rocks and evidence of past bodies of water on the Martian surface.
The ninth full-time crew of the International Space Station lifts off from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome aboard Soyuz TMA-4. Gennady Padalka and Michael Fincke take up residence on the ISS for 187 days. Arriving with them on the ISS for a ten-day stay is Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers, who returns to Earth aboard Soyuz TMA-3 with the Expedition 8 crew.
The three members of the Expedition 9 crew arrive on the International Space Station, and the station promptly loses one of its three gyroscopes, which keep the station aligned in orbit. According to NASA, the station can remain stable with only two of the gyroscopes operating, and even if a second one should fail, the thrusters of the newly-arrived Soyuz capsule can keep it aligned. Departing in their Soyuz vehicle will be Expedition 8 crewmembers Michael Foale and Alexander Kaleri, along with ESA astronaut Andrè Kuipers, who arrived with the Expedition 9 crew to perform a week’s worth of experiments. Manning the station for the next six months will be Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineer Mike Fincke.
Anthony Ainley, the actor who revived the role of the villainous Master in the BBC’s long-running series Doctor Who, dies at the age of 71. Picking up the role originally played by the late Roger Delgado during the Pertwee years, Mr. Ainley first appeared in 1981’s The Keeper Of Traken as the benevolent Consul Tremas, father to series regular Nyssa (Sarah Sutton), whose body was taken over by the Master late in the story. He was born into an acting family and got his first film role at only five years old, though he later studied to be an insurance agent. Finally returning to the family vocation, he appeared in movies such as You Only Live Twice and Inspector Clouseau, and television series ranging from the 1960s police series It’s Dark Outside to Upstairs, Downstairs.
The video game soundtrack album Katamari Fortissimo Damacy is released in Japan, featuring many of the jazz and swing inspired songs from the Playstation 2 game Katamari Damacy.
Actor Richard Biggs, best known to Babylon 5 fans as Dr. Stephen Franklin, dies of a ruptured aorta at the age of 43. An actor perhaps better known to the general public for numerous long-running soap opera roles, Biggs played Dr. Franklin for all five seasons of Babylon 5, but also enjoyed long runs on Guiding Light (a show on which he was still currently appearing at the time of his death) and Days Of Our Lives. At one point before pursuing acting, Biggs actually studied to become a real doctor. Throughout his acting career, he also actively taught acting, and most recently had embarked on a touring acting workshop with his friend and former B5 co-star Jason Carter. He is survived by his wife and two sons.
A joint venture between experimental aircraft designer Burt Rutan and investor/Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, SpaceShip One becomes the first privately owned vehicle to cross the 100-kilometer boundary into space. It is one of several vehicles vying for the Ansari X Prize, a $10,000,000 competition to launch the first privately funded (in other words, not government-funded) space vehicle, even though this is considered one of its test flights and not a qualifying flight for the X Prize. Launched from an airplane “mothership” and dropped off seconds before its own rocket engine takes it into suborbital space, SpaceShip One nearly reaches Mach 3, and is already the first private aircraft to reach Mach 2. Pilot Mike Melvill becomes the first recipient of the Federal Aviation Administration’s commercial astronaut wings upon landing.