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Pioneer-10 and Pioneer-11
Pioneer 10 was launched toward Jupiter in 1972. This spacecraft was the first one to fly to Jupiter, Saturn, the Milky Way Galaxy and stars. After Pioneer 10 emerged through the asteroid belt, Pioneer 11 was launched on a similar trajectory on April 5, 1973, like Pioneer 10, on top of an Atlas/Centaur/TE364-4 launch vehicle.


NASA designed five Pioneer spacecraft, all virtually identical and all spin-stabilized.

Launched on March 2, 1972, Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to pass through the asteroid belt and the first to make direct observations and obtain close-up images of Jupiter. During the passage by Jupiter, Pioneer 10 also charted Jupiter’s intense radiation belts, located the planet’s magnetic field, and established that Jupiter is predominantly a liquid planet.

On July 15, 1972, Pioneer 10 entered the asteroid belt, a doughnut-shaped area that measures some 175 million miles (280 million kilometers) wide and 50 million miles (80 million kilometers) thick. The material in the belt travels at speeds up to 45,000 mph (72,000 kilometers per hour) and ranges in size from dust particles to rock chunks as big as Alaska.

Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to pass through the asteroid belt, considered a spectacular achievement, and then headed toward Jupiter. Accelerating to a speed of 82,000 mph (131,200 kilometers per hour), Pioneer 10 passed by Jupiter on Dec. 3, 1973.

The spacecraft was the first to make direct observations and obtain close-up images of Jupiter. Pioneer 10 also took measurements of the gas giant's magnetosphere, radiation belts, magnetic field, atmosphere, and interior. In 1983, Pioneer 10 became the first human-made object to pass the orbit of Pluto, at that time considered the most distant planet from the sun.

Following its encounter with Jupiter, Pioneer 10 explored the outer regions of the solar system, studying energetic particles from the sun (solar wind), and cosmic rays entering our portion of the Milky Way. The spacecraft continued to make valuable scientific investigations in the outer regions of the solar system until its science mission ended on March 31, 1997.

Principal investigator Dr. James Van Allen of the University of Iowa operated Pioneer 10's Geiger-Tube Telescope instrument.

Pioneer 10, Earth’s first emissary into space, is carrying a gold plaque that describes what we look like, where we are and the date the mission began. 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 the constellation Taurus (The Bull). Aldebaran is about 68 light years away. It will take Pioneer 10 more than 2 million years to reach it. Its sister ship, Pioneer 11, ended its mission Sept. 30, 1995, when the last transmission from the spacecraft was received.

Key Mission People
Larry Lasher, Pioneer Project Manager at NASA Ames Research Center

Related links:

The Pioneer Mission

Pioneer 10 Spacecraft Sends Last Signal

NASA to Try to Contact Pioneer 10 Spacecraft Once Again

NASA Establishes Contact with Famed Pioneer 10 Spacecraft

Famed NASA Pioneer Project Manager Charles Hall Dead at 79

NASA Observatorium - Pioneer 10 25th Anniversary

Silver Anniversary Pioneer 10

Pioneer 10 Successfully Completes Targeting Maneuver inthe Blind

Pioneer 10 Paper Model Activity

Pioneer 10 Image Archive
Pioneer Celebrates 10 Years Beyond the Known Solar Planets