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10 Things for the Week of May 11-17
Columnist: The Authors

10 Things for the Week of May 11-17
9 May 2014

What would a celebration be without balloons? And they are getting pretty fancy these days too. Never have I seen so many big and colorful floating creations.

Helium has many uses, and not just for making things lighter than air. Think space telescopes. The spacecraft that bring us stunning images from the birth of stars and planetary systems use helium to keep cool.

Space telescopes, birthdays and more -- it's all here in this week's edition of 10 Things.


Sunday, May 11th is the 133rd anniversary of the birth of Theodore von Kármán (1881 - 1963). Von Karman is the co-founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

JPL will celebrate 70 years of being called JPL this coming June. And on May 22nd and 23rd, as part of the Theodore von Kármán lecture series, there will be a lecture titled: Putting the 'P' in JPL--The Past, Present and Future of Propulsion at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.


On Wednesday it will be five years since the launch of two space observatory telescopes. Herschel and Planck launched together on May 14, 2009.

Herschel (an ESA mission with NASA participation) ran out of helium coolant in April 2013, and can no longer make science observations. However, scientists looking at Herschel data announced this past January that Herschel observed water vapor at dwarf planet Ceres. This is the first time water vapor has been detected on any object within the asteroid belt.


The moon will occult the planet Saturn on the 14th. An occultation is a celestial event in which one body covers up a distant object -- it's all about perspective. On Wednesday, the moon will completely block out Saturn.

Look for Saturn below and to the left of the moon on the 13th and above the moon on the 14th to view the occultation. (Note: This event will only be visible in Southern Australia and New Zealand.)


May 14th is also the launch anniversary of Skylab, which launched in 1973. Skylab was America's first space station.


May 17th is the 178th anniversary of the birth of Norman Lockyer (1836-1920). Lockyer is one of the discoverers of the element Helium.

Lockyer first noticed something different in the spectral pattern of the sun while observing it during a solar eclipse. It was Lockyer who named this unknown element Helium after Helios, the Greek god of the sun.

6. MARS 2020

There will be a workshop in Washington D.C this week to discuss potential landing sites for the upcoming mission to Mars, currently titled: Mars 2020. Workshop is set for May 14-16.


This Thursday, May 15th is the 5th anniversary of Spritzer's extended mission. Five months after this extension, Spitzer discovered Saturn's largest ring surrounding the planet (October 6, 2009).

Spitzer, which launched in August 2003, is a space telescope which uses infrared technology. This space telescope was originally targeted to study distant galaxies and forming stars and planets.


The Cassini spacecraft will make a flyby of Saturn's moon Titan on Saturday, May 17th. This flyby is designated T-101, however it is actually the spacecraft's 102nd. Read the article below to find out why.


Wondering about the plans and preparations being made for the asteroid retrieval mission coming in the 2020s? Read the news article below to learn all about them.


What better way to make any day special than with chocolate chip cookies. And Thursday, May 15th is National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day. Did you know that the invention of chocolate chip cookies was a mistake?

In 1905, Ruth Wakefield was looking to make chocolate cookies, but did not have the right chocolate. So she added chopped semi-sweet chocolate to her cookie dough thinking that it would melt and incorporate into the dough to create chocolate cookies. They did not, and the chocolate chip cookie was created.

Necessity is the mother of invention.

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This weekly look at upcoming events and stories is brought to you by the NASA solar system exploration communications team. Join the conversation: @NASASolarSystem
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Last Updated: 12 May 2014