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Guru
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September 1, 1979: Pioneer 11 Reaches Saturn

09/01/2006 3:15 PM

Twenty-seven years ago today, on September 1, 1979, Pioneer 11 passed by Saturn at a distance of 21,000 km. Launched from Cape Canaveral on April 6, 1973, Pioneer 11 was the second spacecraft to reach Jupiter and the first to explore Saturn's rings. Less than three meters long, Pioneer 11 featured high-gain, low-gain and medium-gain antennas and two radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTG) which together produced only 100 W by the time the spacecraft reached Saturn. Three pairs of rocket thrusters provided spin-axis control and could be pulsed or fired steadily. Instrumentation included a magnetometer, plasma analyzer, ion detector, charged particle detector, ultraviolet photometer, and infrared radiometer.

Pioneer 11 charted Saturn's magnetosphere, discovered two additional moons, and determined that Titan, a large-planet sized moon, was too cold to support life. NASA scientists were treated to breathtaking pictures of Saturn's rings, which appeared darker in Pioneer's pictures than in telescopic observations from Earth. After flying by Saturn, Pioneer 11 continued its course towards the outer reaches of our solar system. Routine operations ended on September 30, 1995. Communications ended just over one month later. Today, Pioneer 11 continues its journey towards the constellation of Aquila. Should extraterrestrials ever encounter the craft, a plaque that bears depictions of a man, a woman, and location of the Sun and the Earth attests to Pioneer 11's origins.

Resource:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pioneer_11

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Guru
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#1

Pioneer 11 and Voyager 1

09/04/2006 2:09 PM

About 2 years before Pioneer 11 reached Saturn, Voyager 1 was launched. It was 29 years ago, on September 5, 1977. Voyager 1 is presently the farthest human-made object from Earth, traveling faster than any other probe (the New Horizons mission to Pluto launched from Earth faster than Voyager 1 but will not get the gravity assists, which sped Voyager along its path). This remarkable spacecraft is now about 100 AU from Earth and still transmitting! See Voyager 1.

Pioneer 11 fell silent in 1995, probably not because of transmitter failure, but because it did not have the propellant to keep the antenna pointing at Earth. Does anyone know how far from Earth Pioneer 11 must now be?

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#2

Voyager vs Pioneer

09/07/2006 10:04 AM

I could be wrong, but I believe that the disk carrying messages from the earth along with the depection of man and woman and our place in the solar system was sent on Voyager not Pioneer. Voyager was always intended to leave the solar system and has done so. Star Trek did a show around the Voyager spacecraft that incountered and merged with another spacecraft forming "Viger" intent on sterializing all biological units. Good show.

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