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FAREWELL to Pioneer 10

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  • FAREWELL to Pioneer 10

    CNN reports:

    LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- Pioneer 10, the first spacecraft to venture out of the solar system, has fallen silent after traveling billions of miles from Earth on a mission that has lasted nearly 31 years, NASA said Tuesday.

    What was apparently the spacecraft's last signal was received January 22 by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Deep Space Network. At the time, Pioneer 10 was 7.6 billion miles from Earth; the signal, traveling at the speed of light, took 11 hours and 20 minutes to arrive.

    The signal and the two previous signals were very faint. The Deep Space Network heard nothing from Pioneer 10 during a final attempt at contact on February 7. No more attempts are planned.

    Pioneer 10 was launched March 2, 1972, on a 21-month mission. It became the first spacecraft to pass through the asteroid belt and the first to obtain close-up images of Jupiter. In 1983, it became the first manmade object to leave the solar system when it passed the orbit of distant Pluto.

    Although Pioneer 10's mission officially ended in 1997, scientists continued to track the TRW Inc.-built spacecraft as part of a study of communication technology for NASA's future Interstellar Probe mission. Pioneer 10 hasn't relayed telemetry data since April 27.

    "It was a workhorse that far exceeded its warranty, and I guess you could say we got our money's worth," said Larry Lasher, Pioneer 10 project manager at NASA's Ames Research Center.

    Pioneer 10 carries a gold plaque engraved with a message of goodwill and a map showing the Earth's location in the solar system. The spacecraft continues to coast toward the star Aldebaran in the constellation Taurus. It will take 2 million years to reach it.

  • #2
    It's pretty amazing to think that probes like Pioneer and Voyager are going to be floating around in space long after the human race is gone...maybe some alien will find it one day!


    • #3
      Do objects in space get "dirty" - do they pick up stuff that clings to them making them unrecognizable??

      I just had a vision of the alien equivalent of Bruce Willis and his renegade band of drillers climbing into a space ship and heading out from some far-away planet to blow up Pioneer 10 to save their world from being devastated as it crashes into their atmosphere.

      What a remarkable achievement. Just goes to show that not everything new is better.



      • #4
        As we bid farewell to Pioneer 10, we can happily look forward to the unfolding story of the Cassini-Huygens Mission to Saturn and Titan, an international venture designed to explore Saturn, her rings, moons, and the vast surrounding region.

        NASA - current Cassini mission to Saturn and Titan

        Margaret -- I don't know about "space dirt"; I looked it up on Google and arrived at a website that detected my use of a non-Virtual Reality SpaceNet Media (VRSNM) capable browser, and re-directed me to a Space Dirt site designed for older "text and images" browsers...
        This site also told me:
        "We suggest that to enhance your use of the SpaceNet in the future you upgrade to Microsoft's SpaceNet Explorer browser Version 10.5 (released 2262 A.D)"
        Last edited by CJ Swartz; 02-26-2003, 11:41 AM.


        • #5
          to think that probes like Pioneer and Voyager are going to be floating around in space long after the human race is gone -- Greg
          Isn't that mind-blowing! and thrilling...

          Another thrilling concept --
          Saturn is the only known planet that is less dense than water, meaning that if it could be placed inside an imaginary gigantic bathtub it would float. (from the Cassini website)

          Saturn was my favorite planet when I was a kid -- because it was so differently beautiful. Mars and Venus were intriguing, and possibly inhabitable (this was before they found out just HOW hot it was on Venus), but Saturn, though inhospitable to human life, was gloriously beckoning to me. I've read that many people are visibly shaken when they have their first telescopic introduction to Saturn, and I look forward to seeing images that will similarly take my breath away. I need to go to the Lowell Observatory and look at her thru their telescope -- don't know why I've waited so long.

          I missed the close encounter we had with Saturn last fall -- did anyone reading this get to a telescope that week?


          • #6
            Jupiter's magnetosphere is the largest object in the solar system. If it glowed in wavelengths visible to the eye, it would appear two to three times the size of the Sun or Moon to viewers on Earth.

            Jupiter's magnetosphere - image enhanced from Cassini probe


            • #7
              thanks for posting that CJ, I had no idea it had been up there that long that's amazing! I missed Saturn last year, but my dad has got a big old telescope he build from a kit, and we've taken it out quite a few times and seen some pretty amazing things, like one time he brought out some filters so we wouldn't hurt our eyes and watched a solar eclipse, it was incredible, it's also beautiful just to see the moon's surface from a telescope. We've got a place around here called the Edmonton Space and Science centre, and they've got some very powerfull (an expensive I'm sure!) telescopes which I saw some pretty neat things on too, like flares from the sun.

              - David


              • #8
                I have a small 4.5" reflecting telescope that shows the rings of Saturn and moons of Jupiter very well. It is pretty amazing to look through the eyepiece and see those rings for the first really start to realize the vastness of the universe!

                CJ - I'm really waiting for NASA to wise up and place a big telescope (larger than Hubble) out beyond the moon...imagine the stuff we could see then!


                • #9
                  David, your own scope--that is SO neat! I've looked at ads, but think I'll try the observatory first.

                  Greg -- even better than Hubble -- tears would come to my eyes for sure!


                  • #10
                    NASA would have to get there first Greg

                    (in later edit) ahh beyond, not ON the moon, my bad


                    • #11
                      The Galileo spacecraft ended its mission today, September 21, 2003. Launched in 1989 aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis, Galileo has been exploring Jupiter and its moons since December 1995.

                      Legacy summation

                      NASA - Galileo webpages


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