NASA's Pioneer Spacecraft: A Solar System Legacy (Photos)

Pioneer Spacecraft Heads Toward Interstellar Space

NASA Ames Research Center

An artist's view of a Pioneer spacecraft heading into interstellar space. Both Pioneer 10 and 11 are on trajectories that will eventually take them out of our solar system.

Pioneer 10


An artist's depiction of Pioneer 10 approaching Jupiter.

Pioneer 11 Photo of Jupiter


The planet Jupiter as seen from above its north pole by Pioneer 11. The pole itself is roughly on the line of the terminator (boundary between Jovian day and night).

Pioneer 11 Photo of Saturn and Titan


Saturn and its moon Titan as seen by Pioneer 11 in 1979. The irregularities in ring silhouette and shadow are due to technical anomalies in the preliminary data later corrected. At the time this image was taken Pioneer 11 was, at that time, 2,846,000 km (1,768,422 miles) from Saturn.

Saturn by Pioneer 11

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory

This image was taken by Pioneer 11 on Sept. 1, 1979, from a distance of 248,500 miles (400,000 km). The edge of the disk can clearly be seen through the Cassini Division and C ring. The Keeler Gap can also be seen faintly silhouetted against the planet.

Pioneer 11 at Saturn: Artist's View


An artist's impression of the encounter between Pioneer 11 and Saturn in 1979

Pioneer 11: Press Conferences and Pipes


Legendary space scientist James van Allen is seen smoking a pipe alongside physicist Edward Smith at a Pioneer 11 press conference in 1974.

Pioneer and Voyager Paths Across Solar System


A drawing showing the trajectories of Pioneer 10 and 11 as well as Voyager 1 and 2 on their varied routes out of the Solar System.

Pioneer 11 Plaque


The golden plaque on Pioneer 11 was the brainchild of Carl Sagan who wanted any alien civilization who might encounter the craft to know who made it and how to contact them. It gives our location in the Galaxy and depicts a naked man and woman drawn in relation to the spacecraft.

Pioneer Plaque


Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 carry a plaque that features a design engraved into a gold-anodized aluminum plate attached to the spacecraft's antenna support struts to help shield it from erosion by interstellar dust.

Pioneer 10 spacecraft


Pioneer 10 in the final stage of construction in at the TRW plant in Southern California in December 1971. The spacecraft launched toward Jupiter in March 1972 and flew by the planet on Dec. 3, 1973.

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