Status Report

NASA Pioneer 10 Mission Status December 3, 2003

By SpaceRef Editor
December 6, 2003
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NASA Pioneer 10 Mission Status December 3, 2003

Thirty years ago today on 3 December 1973, Pioneer 10 made its closest
encounter to Jupiter passing within 81,000 miles of the cloudtops. This
historic event marked humans’ first approach to Jupiter and opened the way
for exploration of the outer solar system – for Voyager to tour the outer
planets, for Ulysses to break out of the ecliptic, for Galileo to
investigate Jupiter and its satellites, and for Cassini to go to Saturn and
probe Titan. During its Jupiter encounter, Pioneer 10 imaged the planet and
its moons, and took measurements of Jupiter’s magnetosphere, radiation
belts, magnetic field, atmosphere, and interior. These measurements of the
intense radiation environment near Jupiter were crucial in designing the
Voyager and Galileo spacecraft.

The power source on Pioneer 10 finally degraded to the point where the
signal to Earth dropped below the threshold for detection in its latest
contact attempt on 7 February 2003. No more attempts at contact are planned
at this time. The previous three contacts had very faint signals with no
telemetry received. Pioneer’s last, very weak signal was received on 23
January 2003. The last time a Pioneer 10 contact returned telemetry data was
on 27 April 2002.

  • Pioneer 10 distance from Sun : 84.33 AU
  • Speed relative to the Sun: 12.199 km/sec (27,290 mph)
  • Distance from Earth: 12.47 billion kilometers (7.75
  • billion miles)
  • (Round-trip Light Time = 23 hours 7 minutes)

SpaceRef staff editor.