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Pioneer 10
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Pioneer 10
Pioneer 10 Mission to Jupiter Pioneer 10 Mission to Beyond Our Solar System

Goals: Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft intended to fly by Jupiter, surviving the intense radiation that surrounds the giant planet and then on a trajectory that would take it out of the Solar System.

Accomplishments: The spacecraft became the first to fly beyond Mars' orbit, through the asteroid belt, and close to Jupiter, blazing a trail for the two Voyager spacecraft that were to follow and conduct more in-depth surveys. Long before and after flying by Jupiter, Pioneer 10 transmitted data on the magnetic fields, energetic particle radiation and dust populations in interplanetary space. As it passed through the Jupiter system, it transmitted hundreds of photos of the planet and its moons, along with measurements of the Jovian atmosphere.

Tracking Pioneer 10 and 11 as they sped away from the sun revealed what came to be called the "Pioneer Anomaly" - the spacecraft traveled about 5,000 km less than expected each year. In 2012, scientists announced the slight, but detectable effect of heat pushing back on the twin spacecraft explains unexpected slowing.

   

Key Dates
2 Mar 1972:  Launch
13 Jun 1983:  Passed Orbit of Most Distant Planet
Status: Successful
Fast Facts
Pioneer 10 Facts Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to fly through the asteroid belt, first to fly close to Jupiter and first to cross Neptune's orbit on a course to leave our solar system.

In 1983, Pioneer 10 became the first spacecraft to travel past the orbit of the most distant planet, Neptune. Until its distance from Earth was exceeded on February 17, 1998 by Voyager 1, Pioneer 10 was the most distant human-made object.

It will take more than 2 million years for Pioneer 10 to pass Aldebaran, the nearest star on its trajectory.

It carries a plaque with information about Earth and humans.
Science & Technology Features
People Spotlight
Charles Hall Charles Hall
"Charlie Hall's Pioneer 10 craft may be billions of miles from Earth, but his spirit will always be with us at NASA." Read More...
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Last Updated: 22 Jan 2013