Sunday, April 7, 2013

4 decades of Pioneer 11

The Pioneer 11 space mission began on April 5th 1973 when the rocket carrying the satellite launched from Cape Canaveral. Pioneer 11 followed its predecessor which had become the first man-made object to leave the inner Solar System to visit Jupiter, where it took detailed photographs of the red spot. It then went onto visit Saturn, the first probe to do so.

By now Pioneer 11 had completed its mission objectives (and more) but it also served a use to test the route through Saturn's rings which the Voyager missions (which were following on a couple of years behind) would also take. In doing so Pioneer 11 discovered two new moons of Saturn and the F ring of Saturn.

Pioneer 11 was then sent out of the Solar System and it left the planetary system in 1990 (beyond the orbit of Pluto). The last transmission from the probe was detected in 1995 and NASA officially ended the Pioneer 11 mission however the probe is still heading out into interstellar space towards the constellation Scutum.
Saturn (and Titan) taken by Pioneer 11 (Image NASA Ames)

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