From Academic Kids
Launched on March 2, 1972 by an Atlas-Centaur rocket, Pioneer 10 (also called Pioneer F) was the first spacecraft to travel through the asteroid belt, and was the first spacecraft to make direct observations of Jupiter. On December 3, 1973, Pioneer 10 sent back the first close-up images of Jupiter. On June 13th 1983 it passed the orbit of Neptune, then the outermost planet because of Pluto's highly eccentric orbit. By some definitions, this made the spacecraft the first artificial object to leave the solar system. However, Pioneer 10 has still not passed the heliopause or Oort cloud.
Famed for a time as the most remote object ever made by man, at last contact Pioneer 10 was over 7.6 billion miles away from Earth. (Until February 17, 1998, the heliocentric radial distance of Pioneer 10 had been greater than that of any other man-made object. But later on that date, Voyager 1's heliocentric radial distance, in the approximate apex direction, equaled that of Pioneer 10 at 69.419 AU. Thereafter, Voyager 1's distance will exceed that of Pioneer 10 at the approximate rate of 1.016 AU per year).
Built by TRW[ (http://quest.nasa.gov/sso/cool/pioneer10/mission/), the spacecraft made valuable scientific investigations in the outer regions of our solar system until the end of its mission on March 31, 1997. The Pioneer 10's weak signal continued to be tracked by the Deep Space Network as part of a new advanced concept study of chaos theory. Before 1997 the probe was used in the training of flight controllers on how to acquire radio signals from space.
- Pioneer Project Home Page (http://spaceprojects.arc.nasa.gov/Space_Projects/pioneer/PNhome.html)
- NSSDC Pioneer 10 page (http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/database/MasterCatalog?sc=1972-012A)
- Pioneer Odyssey, NASA SP-396, 1977 (http://history.nasa.gov/SP-349/sp349.htm) - This is an entire book about the Pioneer 10 and 11 project, with all pictures and diagrams, on-line! Scroll down to click on the "Table of Contents" link.
- Mark Wolverton's The Depths of Space online (http://www.nap.edu/books/0309090504/html/)
- A distant Pioneer whispers to Earth (http://www.cnn.com/2002/TECH/space/12/18/pioneer.contact/index.html) - CNN article, Dec. 19, 2002
- PIONEER 10 (http://www.pioneer10.net/) - Vancouver, Canada based rock band by the same name.