NASA "Ghost Ship" Sails To The Stars
After more than 30 years and 7.6 billion miles of traveling, it appears the venerable Pioneer 10 spacecraft has sent its last signal to Earth. Pioneer's last, very weak signal was received on Jan. 22, NASA reported Tuesday. "Pioneer 10 was a pioneer in the true sense of the word," said Dr. Colleen Hartman, director of NASA's Solar System Exploration Division. "After it passed Mars on its long journey into deep space, it was venturing into places where nothing built by humanity had ever gone before. It ranks among the most historic as well as the most scientifically rich exploration missions ever undertaken." Pioneer 10 explored Jupiter, traveled twice as far as the most distant planet in our solar system, and as Earth's first emissary into space, is carrying a gold plaque that describes what we look like, where we are and the date when the mission began. Pioneer 10 will continue to coast silently as a ghost ship through deep space into interstellar space, NASA said, heading generally for the red star Aldebaran, about 68 light years away. It will take Pioneer 10 more than 2 million years to reach it. NASA has no additional contact attempts planned for Pioneer 10.