Pioneer 10

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The Pioneer 10 (also known as Pioneer F) spacecraft is a 258-kilogram (569 lb) robotic space probe launched by NASA on March 2, 1972 to study Jupiter and eventually interstellar space. While the spacecraft is believed to still operate properly, communication has been lost since January 23, 2003. Prior to this, the spacecraft was in extended mission to study the dynamics of the solar system boundary including, interplanetary magnetic fields, solar wind, cosmic rays, and the heliosphere. The primary mission ended in December of 1973, encountering the Jovian system.[1] It was the first probe to traverse the asteroid belt and the first to encounter Jupiter.


Mission background


Approved in February of 1969, Pioneer 10 and twin probe Pioneer 11, were the first to be designed for exploring the outer solar system. Yielding to multiple proposals throughout the 1960s, early mission objectives were defined as:

  • Explore the interplanetary medium beyond the orbit of Mars
  • Investigate the nature of the asteroid belt from the scientific standpoint and assess the belt's possible hazard to missions to the outer planets.
  • Explore the environment of Jupiter.

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