Monday, January 23, 2017
Pioneer 10 sends its last signal 2003
Fourteen years ago, January 23, 2003, Pioneer 10 sent its last signal received by Earth. Launched March 3, 1972, Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to travel through the asteroid belt and the first to encounter Jupiter, up close and personal, reaching the gas giant December 3, 1973.
It continued broadcasting at a whopping rate of 256 bits/second, which degraded to 127 millibits/second. When it was approximately 12 billion light-years (80 astronomical units) from Earth, its power fell below the level where it could send signals strong enough to be received. Now it is estimated to be 116 AU from Earth.