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The Pioneer Missions. March 26, 2007
PIONEER 10 SPACECRAFT SENDS LAST SIGNAL - After more than 30 years, it appears the venerable Pioneer 10 spacecraft has sent its last signal to Earth. Pioneer's last, very weak signal was received on 23 January 2003.
A little about Pioneer 11:
The Earth's motion has carried it out of the view of the spacecraft antenna. The spacecraft cannot be maneuvered to point back at the Earth.
Why didn't Pioneer 10 (as well as its twin probe Pioneer 11) keep up communications with Earth as the Voyagers do? As Pioneers and Voyagers were all launched in the 70's, presumably they all shared the similar technologies. Is it due to engineering failure or some other reason?
- Pioneer 10 will continue to coast silently as a ghost ship through deep space into interstellar space, heading generally for the red star Aldebaran, which forms the eye of Taurus (The Bull). Aldebaran is about 68 light years away and it will take Pioneer over 2 million years to reach it.
- The spacecraft is headed toward the constellation of Aquila (The Eagle), Northwest of the constellation of Sagittarius. Pioneer 11 will pass near one of the stars in the constellation in about 4 million years.
NASA already lost connection with the Pioneers, so are they still on their way into deep space without NASA's acknowledgement? How can scientists determine that? Is there any scientific purpose for the Pioneers to reach their respective so-called "destination"? Cause if they do, I can't figure out the purpose of having to wait for millions of years; humanity probably would no longer exist anymore. Or they simply wander around deep space for no specific purpose and act as a "time capsule" for the existence of humanity on Earth along with The Pioneer Plaque?