The tiny United States spacecraft, Pioneer Ten, triumphantly passed through the fierce radiation above the giant planet Jupiter on Tuesday (4 December), and flew on towards the black depths of outer space.
The tiny United States spacecraft, Pioneer Ten, triumphantly passed through the fierce radiation above the giant planet Jupiter on Tuesday (4 December), and flew on towards the black depths of outer space. The scientists at the Pioneer Mission Base at Mountain View, California, described the spacecraft's performance as a complete success.
As Pioneer approached Jupiter, the scientists were afraid that it would be burnt up, or its instruments crippled by the heavy banks of powerful radiation it was passing through. The Mission's Science Director, Dr. John Wolfe, said the radiation was like "a whopping solar flare". Because the craft had survived the point of closest approach by Tuesday, he said the outward bound journey was guaranteed to be successful.
Pioneer has already achieved a number of historic first. It was the first man-made object to successfully negotiate the thick belt of meteors between Earth and Jupiter. It has also travelled further and faster than any other spacecraft. When it passes beyond the solar system, it will become the first man-made object ever to enter outer space.
It should continue to transmit signals until 1979 when it will have reached a distance equal to the orbit of Uranus,some one thousand, eight hundred million miles away. Among the pictures it transmitted back to Earth during the approach, was one showing the largest of Jupiter's four moons, Ganymade. It is larger than the planet Mercury, and showed up as a saucer shaped object. Other colour photographs show the planet's huge red spot, and horizontal red, yellow and blue stripes across the surface