| Home. | Universe Galaxies And Stars Archives. | 
Universe Galaxies Stars logo.
     | Universe | Big Bang | Galaxies | Stars | Solar System | Planets | Hubble Telescope | NASA | Search Engine |

Pioneer 10 first spacecraft to the asteroid belt.

Ten Years Since The Revolution at Amazon.

SAS Black Ops at Amazon.
Amazon Kindle EBook Reader: Click For More Information.

Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to travel through the asteroid belt. Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to make direct observations of Jupiter. Pioneer 10 was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Launch Complex 36A on March 2, 1972. By some definitions, Pioneer 10 has become the first artificial object to leave the solar system. However, Pioneer 10 still has not passed the Heliopause or Oort cloud.

Pioneer 10.
Characteristics of the mission:
Name Pioneer 10
Nation United States of America
Objective(s) Study the interplanetary and planetary magnetic fields; solar wind parameters; cosmic rays; transition region of the heliosphere; neutral hydrogen abundance; distribution, size, mass, flux, and velocity of dust particles; Jovian aurorae; Jovian radio waves; atmosphere of Jupiter and some of its satellites, particularly Io; and to photograph Jupiter and its satellites.
Craft Pioneer-F
Craft weight 258 kg
Administration and planning of mission Ames Research Center - NASA
Launch vehicle Atlas/Centaur/TE364-4
Date and time
of launch
03 March 1972 at 01:49:00 UTC
Launched from Launch Complex 36A, Cape Canaveral
  1. Helium Vector Magnetometer.
  2. Plasma Analyzer.
  3. Charged Particle Instrument.
  4. Cosmic Ray Telescope.
  5. Geiger Tube Telescope.
  6. Trapped Radiation Detector.
  7. Meteoroid Detector.
  8. Asteroid-Meteoroid Experiment.
  9. Ultraviolet Photometer.
  10. Imaging Photopolarimeter.
  11. Infrared Radiometer.

Construction of Pioneer 10.

Pioneer 10 was built by TRW.

Its central computer was based on an Intel 4004 processor.

Pioneer 10 was fitted with a plaque to serve as a message for Extraterrestrial life, in the event of its discovery.

Mission of Pioneer 10.

The spacecraft made valuable scientific investigations in the outer regions of our Solar System until the end of its mission on March 31, 1997.

Further Contact with Pioneer 10.

The Pioneer 10's weak signal continued to be tracked by the Deep Space Network as part of a new advanced concept study of chaos theory. After 1997 the probe was used in the training of flight controllers on how to acquire radio signals from space.

The last, very weak, signal from Pioneer 10 was received on January 23, 2003. A contact attempt on February 7, 2003 was not successful. The last successful reception of telemetry was on April 27, 2002; subsequent signals were barely strong enough to detect. Loss of contact was probably due to a combination of increasing distance and the spacecraft's steadily weakening power source, rather than failure of the craft. One final attempt was made on the evening of March 4, 2006, the last time the antenna would be correctly aligned with Earth. No response was received from Pioneer.

Pioneer 10 mission.
Pioneer 10 mission.
Pioneer 10 Jupiter.
Pioneer 10 Jupiter encounter.

Pioneer 10 is heading in the direction of the star Aldebaran in the constellation Taurus at roughly 2.6 AUs per year. If Aldebaran had zero relative velocity, it would take Pioneer about 2 million years to reach it.

Timeline of Pioneer 10.

March 2, 1972 Spacecraft launched.

July 15, 1972 Entered the Asteroid Belt.

December 3, 1973 Pioneer 10 sent back the first close-up images of Jupiter.

June 13, 1983 Pioneer 10 passed the orbit of Neptune, the outermost planet. (Although Pluto was considered to be a planet at the time, it was closer to the sun than Neptune due to its highly eccentric orbit.)

Pioneer 10 March 31, 1997 End of mission.

February 17, 1998 Famed for a time as the most remote object ever made by man, at last contact Pioneer 10 was over 7.60 billion miles away from Earth. (Until February 17, 1998, the distance of Pioneer 10 from the sun had been greater than that of any other man-made object. But on that date, Voyager 1's distance from the sun, in the approximate apex direction, equalled that of Pioneer 10 at 69.419 AU. From that date on, Voyager 1's distance continues to exceed that of Pioneer 10 at the approximate rate of 1.016 AU per year.)

Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft.
Location of the Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft as of October 2006.

March 2, 2002 Successful reception of telemetry. 39 minutes of clean data received from a distance of 79.83 AU.

April 27, 2002 The last successful reception of telemetry. 33 minutes of clean data received from a distance of 80.22 AU.

January 23, 2003 The last, very weak, signal from Pioneer 10 was received. Subsequent signals were barely strong enough to detect.

February 7, 2003 Unsuccessful contact attempt.

December 30, 2005 Pioneer 10 was 89.7 AU away from the Sun.

March 4, 2006 Final attempt at contact. No response was received from Pioneer.

Pioneer anomaly

Pioneer anomaly

Analysis of the radio tracking data from the Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft at distances between 2070 AU from the Sun has consistently indicated the presence of a small but anomalous Doppler frequency drift. The drift can be interpreted as due to a constant acceleration of (8.74 Â 1.33) - 10-10 m/s2 directed towards the Sun. Although it is suspected that there is a systematic origin to the effect, none has been found. As a result, there is growing interest in the nature of this anomaly.

Gallery of Pioneer 10.

Fictional references to Pioneer 10.

Pioneer 10 was used for target practice and easily destroyed by a Klingon Bird of Prey in the movie Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

Pioneer 10 was also seen in episode 1.12 of Futurama in a quick pull from Earth to the planet Omicron Persei 8.

Pioneer 10 was mentioned in L. Ron Hubbard's novel Battlefield Earth. The race that invaded earth, the Psychlos, found the plaque on board the spacecraft, guiding them to Earth. Apparently the plaque was made of a metal that was very valuable on the galactic commodity market; the Pioneer plaque is, in fact, made of gold-anodized aluminium. The novel begins in the year 3000, a millennium after finding Pioneer 10 and the subsequent invasion of Earth.

  Go To Print Article  

Universe - Galaxies and Stars: Links and Contacts

the web this site
 | GNU License | Contact | Copyright | WebMaster | Terms | Disclaimer | Top Of Page. |