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This Day in Houston History: Pioneer 10 Launched in 1972 - Heavy.com

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GettyThis is an artist rendition of the Pioneer 10 spacecraft as it passes the planet Jupiter.On this day in history, March 2, 1972, NASA launched Pioneer 10 for its mission to Jupiter. The mission was initially slated as a 21-month mission, and instead lasted more than 30 years.Pioneer 10 was NASAs first mission to the outer planets, according to NASA. Transmissions ended in 2003 as the power source for its radio decayed, but the spacecraft is still traversing space. Today, it is headed toward Aldebaran, the red star of Taurus.The mission was a spectacular success and the spacecraft notched a series of firsts unmatched by any other robotic spacecraft to date, NASA wrote.

 
Follow theHeavy on Houston Facebook pagefor the latest Houston news and more.Heres what you need to know:Pioneer 10 Was the First Spacecraft to Travel Through the Asteroid Belt & Obtain Up-Close Images of JupiterWednesday marks 50 years since the launch of Pioneer 10 undoubtedly, one of the most important interplanetary space missions ever. This craft paved the way for all that have come since Voyagers, Cassini, New Horizons, JunoWho wants a mega thread on Weds?! pic.twitter.com/6vjKOXpOPO Dr. Jenifer Millard (@DrJeniMillard) February 28, 2022Pioneer 10 launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida on March 2, 1972, at 1:49 a.m.
 
UT, or 7:49 p.m. in Houston, according to NASA. The 569-pound spacecraft was launched from the Atlas Centaur.
 
Its scientific instruments included an Imaging Photopolarimeter, a Helium Vector Magnetometer (HVM), an Infrared Adiometer, a Quadrispherical Plasma Analyzer, an Ultraviolet Photometer, a Charged Particle Instrument (CPI), a Cosmic Ray Telescope (CRT), a Geiger Tube Telescope (GTT), a Sisyphus Asteroid/Meteoroid Detector (AMD), Meteoroid Detectors and Trapped Radiation Detector (TRD).Pioneer 10 entered the asteroid belt July 15, 1972 and made its closest approach to Jupiter December 4, 1973, NASA reported. The spacecraft continued its travels beyond its original destination, crossing Saturns orbit in February 1976. It crossed Neptunes orbit on June 13, 1983.2 March 1972. 01.49.
 
04 UTC/GMT. Launch of Pioneer 10 by an Atlas Centaur from Launch Complex 36A, Cape Canaveral. Primary objective: Jupiter flyby. The first spacecraft to travel through the asteroid belt. Now more than 10 billion miles from Earth. pic.
 
twitter.com/XvfF2TsIuc Ron Eisele (@ron_eisele) March 1, 2022The Houston Space Center wrote about Pioneer 10 and its many firsts.It said:This spacecraft provided crucial information about our solar system and neighboring planets which will help with our journey into deep space. It notched a series of firsts unmatched by any other robotic spacecraft:First spacecraft placed on a trajectory to escape the solar system into interstellar spaceFirst spacecraft to fly beyond MarsFirst spacecraft to fly through the main asteroid beltFirst spacecraft to fly past JupiterCrossed the orbit of Neptune to become the first human-made object to go beyond NeptuneFirst spacecraft to use all-nuclear electrical powerPioneer 10 Continues Its Journey Through Outer Space & Contains Diagrams of Humans In Case It Is Intercepted By Intelligent Life(Kshitij) March 2nd, 1972- Pioneer 10 launched: The first space probe to complete a mission to Jupiter, and, also, the first of five artificial objects to achieve the escape velocity needed to leave the solar system.Read more: https://t.
 
co/AAqKSYbcx5 York Universe Radio (@YorkUniverse) March 1, 2022Pioneer 10 made its last transmission January 23, 2003, and the mission that was planned to last for less than two years lasted nearly 31, NASA reported. The final transmission came 7.6 billion miles from Earth. It took 11 hours and 20 minutes for the signal to reach Earth. It was clear at the time that the power source had decayed, and the radio transmitter was receiving insufficient power. A final attempt to contact Pioneer 10 was made on March 4, 2006.
 
Today, Pioneer 10 is headed toward Aldebaran, the red star that forms the constellation Taurus. It will be 2 million years before Pioneer 10 passes the star, NASA reported.When NASA launched Pioneer 10, scientists included messages about humans and our solar system, in case it is ever intercepted by intelligent life.NASA wrote:Pioneer 10 is heading out of the solar system in a direction very different from the two Voyager probes and Pioneer 11, i.
 
e., towards the nose of the heliosphere in an upstream direction relative to the inflowing interstellar gas.In case its intercepted by intelligent life, Pioneer 10 carries an aluminum plaque with diagrams of a man and a woman, the solar system, and its location relative to 14 pulsars. The expectation is that intelligent beings would be able to interpret the diagram to determine the position of the Sun and thus, Earth at the time of launch relative to the pulsars.READ NEXT: Today in Houston History: Mars Opportunity Rover Dies Feb.
 
13, 2019