Tech History

January 23, 2003

Last Contact with Pioneer 10

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The last successful contact was made with the spacecraft Pioneer 10, one of the most distant man-made objects in the universe.

Pioneer 10 crossed the orbit of Saturn in 1976 and the orbit of Uranus in 1979. On June 13, 1983, the craft crossed the orbit of Neptune, the outermost planet, and so became the first human-made object to leave the proximity of the major planets of the Solar System. The mission came to an official end on March 31, 1997, when it had reached a distance of 67 AU from the Sun, though the spacecraft was still able to transmit coherent data after this date.

The final, very weak signal from Pioneer 10 was received on January 23, 2003 when it was 12 billion kilometers (80 AU) from Earth.Further attempts to contact the spacecraft were unsuccessful.

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