Pioneer 10 Has Gone Quiet
Pioneer 10 has sent its last signal to NASA's Deep Space Network of radio antennas. Pioneer 10, launched in 1972, was designed for a 21-month mission which made it the first manmade device to travel beyond the orbit of the planet Mars. Most famously the probe passed through the asteroid belt and flew by the planet Jupiter, in 1973.
Its mission extended, Pioneer 10 passed the orbit of Pluto in 1983 and reported on the conditions at this great distance from the sun. This mission too was completed in 1997, but the little explorer has continued to send its signals.
Pioneer 10's last report was received on January 22, 2003, from 7.6 billion miles away. It will remain on its two million year course toward the star Aldeberan, a fitting memorial to its own success.