I’m reblogging this article from 2013 today because this day (June 13) is the 32nd anniversary of the day that Pioneer 10 officially left the Solar System. As I explain in the main article, this is a pretty amazing, cosmic occurrence–even more so when you realize how modest but indefatigable the little spaceship was. And it’s still out there somewhere. Amazing to think about!
Most people have heard of the Voyager space probes–the small unmanned spacecraft that were launched in the late 1970s on twin missions to explore the outer planets of the solar system. In addition to being immortalized in Star Trek: The Motion Picture as the origin of the powerful but misunderstood entity known as “V’Ger,” these spacecraft have their own Twitter handle. But few people remember that the Voyagers weren’t the first probes sent on this sort of mission; a few years earlier a little ship called Pioneer 10 was the very first one to blaze the trail.
The Pioneer probe was quite simple. Basically a fiberglass box containing cameras, magnetometers and radio transmitters, the whole thing weighed only 500 pounds. That’s not a lot to bring on a trip to Jupiter. The craft, designed by defense and NASA contractor TRW, was launched on March 2, 1972. The total cost to…
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