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Pioneer P-3
Pioneer P-3 Mission to Earth's Moon

Goals: Pioneer P-3 was intended to orbit the Moon, take photographs and study the interplanetary environment with a variety of sensors. It was the first mission to use an two-stage Atlas rocket that allowed heavier payloads to be hurled into space.

Accomplishments: None. Forty-five seconds after liftoff, the spacecraft's nose fairing broke away and the rocket tumbled and exploded. Contact was lost 104 seconds after launch.


Key Dates
26 Nov 1959:  Launch (07:26 UT)
Status: Unsuccessful
Fast Facts
Pioneer P-3 Facts Two of the four spacecraft in this series were intended to go to Venus but NASA redirected them to the Moon after the Soviet Luna 3 success.

The first spacecraft to reach Venus was Mariner 2 in 1962.

The U.S. and Soviet Union launched six unmanned lunar spacecraft in 1959. This was the last.

Two of the spacecraft in this series were pulled from planned Venus missions as a result of the Soviet Union's Luna 3 success.

This was America's 7th interplanetary mission.

The spacecraft carried a motor for lunar orbit insertion.
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Last Updated: 13 Dec 2010