So long, Pioneer 10.
After 31 years and billions of miles, the first manmade object to leave the solar system has finally fallen silent. Pioneer 10's signal has degraded below the level of detection, and no more attempts will be made to contact it.
Pioneer 10 was launched in 1972 on a 21-month mission, becoming the first spacecraft to fly through the asteroid belt, the first to take close-up images of Jupiter, and the first to use the gravity of a planet to change its course. Pioneer 10 also carries a gold plaque depicting the location of earth as well as drawings of a male and a female human. Pioneer 10 is currently headed towards the star Aldebaran in the constellation Taurus, although it will pass within three light years of the red dwarf Ross 248 in 300,000 years.
In the era of NASA's "better, faster, cheaper, more" missions (and disappointments), Pioneer 10 certainly lived up to its budget and its mission... And then some. Wind to your sails, Pioneer.