Artwork showing Pioneer 10 in space.
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Image courtesy NASA

Pioneer 10 falls silent
News story originally written on March 7, 2003

Pioneer 10 is a spacecraft that left Earth more than 30 years ago. It was supposed to work for about 2 years, but it lasted a lot longer than that! Scientists tried to contact Pioneer 10 on February 7, 2003, but it looks like Pioneer 10 has finally run out of energy. The last signal from the spacecraft, which arrived on January 22, was very weak.

Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to pass through the asteroid belt. It was also the first spacecraft to visit Jupiter and take close-up pictures of the largest planet in our Solar System.

The last signal from Pioneer 10 came from more than 12 billion kilometers (7.6 billion miles) away. It is so far away that radio signals from Pioneer 10, which move at the speed of light, took more than 11 hours to reach Earth. The spacecraft is headed out of our Solar System. It is going towards the star Aldebaran in the constellation Taurus. Aldebaran is 68 light-years away. It will take Pioneer 10 more than 2 million years to get there! The spacecraft has a gold plaque on it that tells about Earth. If there are "aliens" somewhere "out there", they might find out about us from the plaque on Pioneer 10!

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