Godspeed, Pioneer 10

Pioneer 10 PlaqueThe BBS reports that “After more than 30 years, it appears the venerable Pioneer 10 spacecraft has sent its last signal to Earth. Pioneer’s last, very weak signal was received on Jan. 22, 2003.” Launched in 1972, Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to pass through the asteroid belt and made the first direct observations of the planet Jupiter. It has since continued exploring the outer solar system, beaming back information about the solar wind and cosmic rays. Perhaps most poignant is its mission as “Earth’s first emissary into space,” carrying a gold plaque describing Earth’s location in the solar system as well as the appearance of human beings. Pioneer 10 is silently gliding in the general direction of Aldebaran, 68 light years away, a journey that will take 2 million years.

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