Pioneer programme

Artist's impression of Pioneer 11

Pioneer programme

NASA's Pioneer programme, started in the 1950s, launched a series of spacecraft to a number of destinations in the Solar System. As the name suggests, Pioneer missions paved the way for later probes.

Important members of the Pioneer family include Pioneer 4, which flew by the Moon in 1959, and Pioneers 6-9, the first network of Sun-monitoring satellites.

Launched in 1972, Pioneer 10 was the first mission to Jupiter and the first probe to travel beyond Neptune. In 1979 Pioneer 11 became the first craft to visit Saturn. The 1978 Pioneer Venus missions (12 and 13) were the first long-term American Venus missions.

Photo: Artist's impression of Pioneer 11 (NASA)

Watch and listen to clips from past programmes TV clips [6]

Artist's impression of Pioneer 11

About Pioneer programme

Trailblazing missions travel across the Solar System.

About Pioneer programme

The Pioneer program is a series of United States unmanned space missions that were designed for planetary exploration. There were a number of such missions in the program, but the most notable were Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11, which explored the outer planets and left the solar system. Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 carry a golden plaque, depicting a man and a woman and information about the origin and the creators of the probes, should any extraterrestrials find them someday.

Credit for naming the first probe has been attributed to Stephen A. Saliga, who had been assigned to the Air Force Orientation Group, Wright-Patterson AFB, as chief designer of Air Force exhibits. While he was at a briefing, the spacecraft was described to him as a "lunar-orbiting vehicle with an infrared scanning device." Saliga thought the title too long and lacked theme for an exhibit design. He suggested "Pioneer" as the name of the probe since "the Army had already launched and orbited the Explorer satellite and their Public Information Office was identifying the Army as 'Pioneers in Space,'" and by adopting the name the Air Force would "make a 'quantum jump' as to who really [were] the 'Pioneers in space.'"

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