Mira Furlan, actress, dies

Mira FurlanYugoslavian-born actress Mira Furlan, best known to genre fans as Ambassador Delenn from Babylon 5 (one of the few characters to appear in both the 1993 pilot movie and the 1998 series finale), and for her recurring role as Rousseau in Lost, dies at the age of 65. With her husband, director Goran Gajić, she escaped the Serbo-Croatian war and emigrated to the United States early in the 1990s, just in time to land the role of Delenn. She also continued film and stage appearances, as well as releasing an album titled Songs From Movies That Have Never Been Made, with lyrics in both her native tongue and English.

Louis Clark, musician, dies

Louis ClarkOrchestral conductor, arranger and composer Louis Clark, best known for the chart-topping early ’80s mash-up Hooked On Classics, dies at the age of 73 after a period of illness. Aside from the Hooked On Classics single and album, Clark was the architect of the orchestral arrangements for Electric Light Orchestra during that band’s 1970s peak years, working in the albums Eldorado (1974), Face The Music (1975), A New World Record (1976), Out Of The Blue (1977), Discovery (1979), and ELO’s contributions to the Xanadu soundtrack (1980). He went on to become a full-time member of Electric Light Orchestra Part II (later renamed The Orchestra), creating that band’s orchestral arrangements as well as performing on stage, often playing the orchestral parts with synthesizers and samples. He also worked on numerous solo projects by members of ELO, including Kelly Groucutt’s Kelly album (1982), Roy Wood’s Starting Up (1987), and collaborating with Jeff Lynne on Roy Orbison’s Mystery Girl (1989). He also did orchestral arrangements for acts such as Asia, Renaissance, America, and Ozzy Osbourne.

Michael Collins, astronaut, dies

Michael CollinsApollo 11 command module pilot Michael Collins, who remained in the command module Columbia in orbit of the moon while his crewmates, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, landed on the moon, dies at the age of 90 after battling cancer. Upon returning to Earth, Collins opted to retire from NASA and found work within the United States government, leading to his becoming the first director of the National Air & Space Museum, a facility which had yet to open at the time he took charge of it. Collins wrote a memoir, Carrying The Fire, in 1974, one of the earliest astronaut memoirs (and the first from a member of the crew charged with making the first lunar landing). Prior to Apollo 11, he had flown with John Young aboard Gemini 10, and prior to that had distinguished careers as both a fighter pilot and a test pilot. He applied for the second group of NASA astronauts, but didn’t make the cut until NASA was recruiting its third class.

Jackie Lane, actress, dies

Jackie Lane as Dodo in Doctor WhoFormer actress Jackie Lane, who portrayed the first Doctor’s companion, Dodo Chaplet, in the third season of Doctor Who opposite William Hartnell, dies at the age of 79. One of the actresses originally considered for the role of Susan, the Doctor’s granddaughter, at the beginning the series, Ms. Lane wasn’t offered a role until the show entered its third season. The character of Dodo was rather abruptly introduced at the end of part four of The Massacre, and then is not seen again after the end of part 4 of The War Machines, presumably having decided to stay on Earth in her native time period, though the character’s fate is never specified; in real life, her contract was allowed to expire with no attempt made to keep her in the series. Burned by that experience, she retired from acting and became an agent, representing fellow Doctor Who stars Tom Baker and Janet Fielding during that phase of her career. Though she appeared in a handful of DVD bonus features covering her time on Doctor Who, she chose to stay out of the convention ecosystem, resisting offers to make public appearances.

Virgin Galactic Unity-22

Virgin Galactic Unity-22Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity lifts off from Spaceport New Mexico on its first fully-crewed flight with passengers, including Virgin Galactic founder/owner Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic’s Beth Moses (who flew aboard a previous flight), Sirisha Bandla, and Colin Bennett, with veteran Virgin Galactic pilots David Mackay and Michael Masucci at the vehicle’s controls. The flight is suborbital only, but does earn the rookies among its crew their commercial astronaut wings. The flight was only announced at the beginning of July, where some observers interpreted the announcement as an attempt to upstage the previous announcement that Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin would be flying a fully crewed New Shepard capsule on July 20th. Independent flight of Unity lasts approximate 14 minutes, from drop/booster ignition from its carrier aircraft to landing (total time in both air and space for those aboard is approximately 58 minutes, from takeoff of the carrier aircraft to Unity‘s touchdown on the runway). (The flight system of carrier aircraft and air-dropped spacecraft was established almost exactly 17 years earlier in the first SpaceShipOne flight by Scaled Composites, which sold the design to Virgin Galactic for commercial development.)

Blue Origin NS-16

Blue Origin NS-16Blue Origin, the private spaceflight company founded and owned by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, launches its first fully-crewed New Shepard capsule into suborbital space. Aboard are Bezos, his brother Mark Bezos, Mercury 13 astronaut candidate Wally Funk (at 82, the oldest human to have traveled in space to date), and Oliver Daemen (at 18, the youngest human space traveler to date); the vehicle is fully automatic and has no pilots (or, indeed, control systems for pilots) aboard, with the flight lasting ten minutes from liftoff to landing under parachute. This is the first crewed spaceflight launched from Blue Origin’s Texas facility. As both the New Shepard booster and crew capsule are reusable, the hardware has all been previously flown.

Nauka Module Launched

Nauka launchRussia launches the Nauka Multipurpose Logistics Module Upgrade component of the International Space Station. Part of the original design for the ISS, Nauka was built in time to be launched in 2007, but its addition to the station was repeatedly delayed, missing planned launch windows in 2009, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019, and 2020. Parts of Nakua required upgrades and replacements over the years that it awaited launch, as these parts began to fail certification due to their age. (Much of the module was 14 years old before it ever made it to the launch pad.) Nakua, designed to automatically rendezvous and dock with the station, begins encountering technical problems once it is in orbit, delaying the docking maneuver. It replaces the Russian Pirs module, which becomes the first ISS module to be detached and allowed to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere.

Nauka Module docks with International Space Station

Nauka docking time lapseDelayed several days due to technical glitches that occurred after its launch, the Russian Nauka Multipurpose Logisitics Module Upgrade docks with the International Space Station. Some glitches continue to occur during the modules approach and docking phase, with the Russian crew members aboard the station manually intervening when necessary. After docking, however, Nauka’s thrusters begin firing, rotating the station 45 degrees off-axis, eventually exhausting its fuel supply. Once its thrusters are no longer capable of moving the station, the station is restored to its original orientation, with NASA reassuring the public that the event posed no danger to the crew. Some spacewalks will be required to fully connect Nauka’s systems to those of the rest of the station, but it is expected to become the hub of Russia’s research activity aboard the ISS.

Tony Selby, actor, dies

Tony Selby as Sam in Ace Of WandsActor Tony Selby, known to British sci-fi and fantasy fans both as recurring rogue Sabalon Glitz in Doctor Who and as series regular Sam Maxsted in the first two (now missing) seasons of Ace Of Wands, dies at the age of 83. With his first credited TV role at the age of 13, Mr. Selby was a frequent fixture in British TV and films. He made numerous appearances in The Wednesday Play, and appeared in The Avengers, Department S, Callan, Special Branch, and Crown Court. He also made movie appearances, in such films as Villain, Adolf Hitler – My Part In His Downfall, and uncredited roles in Alfie and Superman. His 21st century TV appearances included Dream Team, New Tricks, and Doctors.