Monday, February 09, 2009

Pioneer 10

Pioneer 10 (also called Pioneer-F) was the first spacecraft to travel through the asteroid belt, which it entered on July 15, 1972, and to make direct observations of Jupiter, which it passed by on December 3, 1973. It was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Launch Complex 36A on March 2, 1972. Pioneer 10 is heading in the direction of Aldebaran, located in Taurus. By some definitions, Pioneer 10 has become the first artificial object to leave the solar system. It is surely the first human-built object to have been set upon a trajectory leading out of the solar system. However, it still has not passed the heliopause or Oort cloud.

Its objectives were to study the interplanetary and planetary magnetic fields; solar wind parameters; cosmic rays; transition region of the heliosphere; neutral hydrogen abundance; distribution, size, mass, flux, and velocity of dust particles; Jovian aurorae; Jovian radio waves; atmosphere of Jupiter and some of its satellites, particularly Io; and to photograph Jupiter and its satellites.

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