The bit at the end where Neil is talking about how Carl inspired him was so moving. If I could be any bit the man Carl was I’d be so proud.
"Originally designed for a 21-month mission, Pioneer 10 lasted more than 30 years. It was a workhorse that far exceeded its warranty, and I guess you could say we got our money’s worth." - Pioneer 10 Project Manager, Dr. Larry Lasher.
On March 2nd, 1972, NASA launched Pioneer 10 on a mission towards Jupiter to obtain imagery and data regarding the intense radiation stemming from the planet. During the journey to Jupiter, Pioneer 10 became the first man-made object to enter the asteroid belt, a dangerous location in our solar system consisting of material with top speeds of 45,000 mph. Upon reaching Jupiter, Pioneer 10 took measurements of the planet’s magnetosphere, radiation belts, magnetic field, and atmosphere — confirming that Jupiter is predominantly a liquid planet.
Capable of reaching speeds of 82,000 mph, Pioneer 10 continued on a trajectory to the edge of our solar system, eventually reaching the orbit of Pluto in 1983. For twenty more years, Pioneer 10 would continue to study solar wind and cosmic rays until its science mission ended on March 31st, 1997. For nearly six more years, Pioneer would transmit data back home until its final signal was received by NASA on January 22nd, 2003.
According to NASA’s mission archives, Pioneer 10 was also outfitted with a special message to any intelligent life who may come across it:
"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."
The Pioneer 10 Mission Archives can be viewed here: