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January 21, 2013 - Final Words

Final Words Pioneer 10 holds a special place in the history of robotic space exploration. Launched in 1972, it was the first spacecraft to travel through the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and in late 1973 Pioneer 10 flew past Jupiter, another first. Although its nominal mission ended in 1997 when it was 10 billion km (6 billion mi) from Earth, Pioneer 10 continued to intrigue scientists who studied the “Pioneer Anomaly,” a subtle, unexplained Doppler shift in the spacecraft’s radio signal. Recent studies ultimately attributed the anomaly to uneven thermal radiation from the spacecraft. Ten years ago this week, the last faint signal was heard from Pioneer 10 when it was 12 billion km (7.5 billion mi) from Earth, more than thirty years after it was launched.

Image credit: NASA

Weekly Calendar

January 21-27, 2013

Holidays - Sky Events - Space History

Moon phase Monday 21

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Jupiter 0.5° north of Moon

Moon phase Tuesday 22

Moon at apogee

1968: Apollo 5 launched
1978: First automatic resupply ship docking (Progress 1)
1992: STS-42 Discovery launched
1998: STS-89 Endeavour launched
2003: Pioneer 10’s last signal to Earth

Moon phase Wednesday 23

Moon phase Thursday 24

1978: Cosmos 954 satellite reenters atmosphere over Canada
1985: STS-51C Discovery launched
1986: Voyager 2 flies past Uranus
1992: Magellan begins third mapping cycle of Venus

Moon phase Friday 25

1736: Joseph Lagrange born
1962: NASA authorizes Saturn V rocket
1983: IRAS launched
1994: Clementine spacecraft launched
2004: Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity lands

Moon phase Saturday 26

Full Moon 11:38 PM ET

Moon phase Sunday 27

Vesta appears stationary

1967: Apollo 1 astronauts Grissom, White, and Chaffee die in cockpit fire on launch pad during test

Suggestions for new history dates or better links? Corrections for errors on this page? Please e-mail me.