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So long, Pioneer 10.

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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.



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I'm not ashamed to admit that there were a few tears in these old eyes when I read this. I was at UCLA when Pioneer 10 launched, back on March 2, 1972, and I remember following the mission with great interest. Whole new worlds were being unwrapped for the first time! It was a magical decade, with the Voyagers following the Pioneers in opening up dozens of new worlds to our sight.

So here's to the people who put this marvel of engineering together, and here's to you, Pioneer. Sail on, avatar of our aspirations; sail on.

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Pioneer 10, launched in 1972, was well before the "better, faster, cheaper" era.

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Obviously, although I admit I probably didn't word that as well as I could have. It's *outlasted* the newer, more "advanced" probes by a few degrees of magnitude.

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With the success of Pioneer beyond its wildest imaginings, I'm really hoping NASA continues to look 'onward and upward' and not continue with everyday, uninteresting missions. If there's one thing we've really missed out on, those of us alive today, it's the space race of the 60s, when everything seemed new and exciting. And I think we should bring those ideas back.

Or maybe I just feel this way because I saw Robert Zubrin (president of the Mars Society) at PSU last weekend, and thought, "You know what? This guy's absolutely right." - their idea *would* work, and it'd be a 10th the price of NASA's 'plan'.

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