Latin Mercurius, in Roman religion, god of merchandise and merchants, commonly identified with the Greek Hermes (q.v.), fleet-footed messenger of the gods. His worship was introduced early, and his temple on the Aventine Hill in Rome was dedicated in 495 BC. There he was associated with the goddess Maia, who became identified as his mother through her association with the Greek Maia, mother of Hermes. Both Mercury and Maia were honoured in a festival on May 15, the dedication day of Mercury’s temple on the Aventine (built about 500 BC).
Mercury is sometimes represented as holding a purse, symbolic of his business functions. Usually, however, artists borrow the attributes of Hermes irrespective of their appropriateness and portray him wearing winged sandals or a winged cap and carrying a caduceus (staff).
First U.S. space station, launched into Earth orbit on May 14, 1973. Three successive crews of visiting astronauts carried out investigations of the human body’s adaptation to the space environment, studied the Sun in unprecedented detail, and undertook pioneering Earth-resources observations.
Skylab was an outcome of the Apollo Applications Program set up by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1965 to adapt spacecraft and systems developed for the U.S. Moon-landing program to a variety of scientific missions. As a first step toward establishing a long-term manned platform in space, Skylab made use of a Saturn V Moon rocket, whose third stage was outfitted as a habitat and ready-to-use orbital workshop, and the Command and Service modules of Apollo spacecraft, which ferried the station’s crews and small amounts of supplies. Although limited by its consumable resources in the same way as the Soviet Union’s first-generation Salyut stations, Skylab was much roomier and capable of more research. Its main scientific instrument, the Apollo Telescope Mount, incorporated a number of component telescopes and other devices for observing the Sun over a broad range of the electromagnetic spectrum, from visible light through X rays.
During Skylab’s ascent a thermal-meteoroid shield was ripped off, which led to the loss of one of the lateral solar power arrays that was to supply electricity to the station and prevented full extension of the other. During their 28-day mission, the first three-man crew deployed an improvised “parasol” sunshade (later fortified with an overlying sun shield) to prevent serious overheating of the station and released the jammed solar array. Skylab hosted two additional three-man crews for missions lasting 59 and 84 days, the latter a space endurance record at the time. Although plans called for Skylab to be used again, increased solar activity caused its orbit to degrade faster than expected. On July 11, 1979, it entered the atmosphere, broke up, and scattered debris over the southeastern Indian Ocean and Western Australia.
Mountain massif of the Himalayas in north-central Nepal, on the western side of the deep Kāli Gandak River gorge. Many of its snow- and glacier-covered peaks exceed 25,000 feet (7,620 m), including Dhaulāgiri I, II, III, and IV. At 26,795 feet (8,167 m), Dhaulāgiri I is one of the world’s highest mountains. With a south wall 15,000 feet (4,600 m) high, the peak’s steep sides and bitter climate prevented an ascent to the top until May 13, 1960, when a Swiss expedition led by Max Eiselin reached the summit. The name of the peak is derived from two Sanskrit words meaning “white mountain.”
Aboard the semirigid airship Norge, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, American scientist Lincoln Ellsworth, and Italian engineer Umberto Nobile made the first undisputed flight over the North Pole on this day in 1926.
in full Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen Norwegian explorer who was the first to reach the South Pole, the first to make a ship voyage through the Northwest Passage, and one of the first to cross the Arctic by air. He was one of the greatest figures in the field of polar exploration.
Amundsen studied medicine for a while and then took to sea. In 1897 he sailed as first mate on the Belgica in a Belgian expedition that was the first to winter in the Antarctic. In 1903, with a crew of six on his 47-ton sloop Gjöa, Amundsen became the first man to sail through the Northwest Passage and around the northern Canadian coast; his east-west journey ended at Herschel Island in the Yukon in 1905. This achievement whetted his appetite for the spectacular in polar exploration.
Amundsen’s next plan, to drift across the North Pole in Fridtjof Nansen’s old ship, the Fram, was affected by the news that the American explorer Robert E. Peary had reached the North Pole in April 1909, but he continued his preparations. When Amundsen left Norway in June 1910 no one but his brother knew that he was heading for the South Pole instead of the North. He sailed the Fram directly from the Madeira Islands to the Bay of Whales, Antarctica, along the Ross Sea. The base he set up there was 60 miles (100 km) closer to the pole than the Antarctic base of the English explorer Robert Falcon Scott, who was heading a rival expedition with the same goal. An experienced polar traveler, Amundsen prepared carefully for the coming journey, making a preliminary trip to deposit food supplies along the first part of his route to the pole and back. To transport his supplies, he used sled dogs, while Scott depended on Siberian ponies.
Amundsen set out with 4 companions, 52 dogs, and 4 sledges on Oct. 19, 1911, and, after encountering good weather, arrived at the South Pole on December 14. The explorers recorded scientific data at the pole before beginning the return journey on December 17, and they safely reached their base at the Bay of Whales on Jan. 25, 1912. Scott, in the meantime, had reached the South Pole on January 17, but on a difficult return journey he and all his men perished.
With funds resulting from his Antarctic adventure, Amundsen established a successful shipping business. He acquired a new ship, the Maud, and tried in 1918 to complete his old plan of drifting across the North Pole, but he was forced to abandon this scheme in favour of trying to reach the North Pole by airplane. In a flight (1925) with the American explorer Lincoln Ellsworth he arrived to within 150 miles (250 km) of the pole. In 1926, with Ellsworth and the Italian aeronautical engineer Umberto Nobile, he passed over the North Pole in a dirigible, crossing from Spitsbergen (now Svalbard), north of Norway, to Alaska. Disputes over the credit for the flight embittered his final years. In 1928 Amundsen lost his life in flying to rescue Nobile from a dirigible crash near Spitsbergen. Amundsen’s books include The South Pole (1912) and, with Ellsworth, First Crossing of the Polar Sea (1927).
Glacier National Park :national park set in a scenic Rocky Mountain wilderness in northwestern Montana, U.S., adjoining the Canadian border and Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park. The two parks together compose the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, dedicated in 1932. Glacier National Park was established in 1910 and encompasses 1,013,572 acres (410,178 hectares). The park has many active glaciers. Mountains, lakes, cirques, and valleys all show the effects of the ice sheet that formerly covered the region. The park straddles the Continental Divide (great ridge of the Rocky Mountains that marks the boundary between westward Pacific drainage and eastward Atlantic drainage), with the forests concentrated on the western slopes because of the heavier rainfall there. Alpine meadows that blossom with wildflowers in summer are common at higher elevations.
Nelson Mandela, whose efforts to end apartheid led to his imprisonment (1962–90) and earned him a share (with F.W. de Klerk) of the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize, became president of South Africa this day in 1994.
On this day in 1502, master navigator and admiral Christopher Columbus, long considered the “discoverer” of the New World, set sail from Cádiz, Spain, on his fourth and final voyage, hoping to find a passage to Asia.