Follow this link to skip to the main content

The Pioneer Missions

Pioneer 10
Pioneer 10

Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 were the first spacecraft to travel to a planet more distant than Mars. They were launched one year apart, in 1972 and 1973. They both flew by Jupiter, and Pioneer 11 went on to Saturn.

There were many serious questions about navigating a spacecraft past Mars. Could it safely make its way through the thousands of asteroids between Mars and Jupiter? How strong would Jupiter's radiation be -- would it disable or destroy the spacecraft? Pioneer 10 and 11 traveled safely through the asteroid belt and survived Jupiter's intense radiation.

Pioneer 11
Pioneer 11

They showed us we could explore the mysterious outer planets of our solar system. The two spacecraft paved the way for the Voyager missions launched just a few years later, in 1977.

Next: The Voyager and Ulysses Missions Next