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Space Science

NASA Gives Up On Pioneer 10 610

Posted by michael
from the klingon-target-practice dept.
Soft writes "Another Energizer Bunny has finally given out: Pioneer 10's generators have decayed to the point that DSN can no longer detect the probe's signals. It was the first spacecraft to penetrate the asteroid belt (1972) and fly by Jupiter (1973). So long and thanks for all the pic's..."
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NASA Gives Up On Pioneer 10

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  • by DasBub (139460) <.dasbub. .at. .dasbub.com.> on Tuesday February 25, 2003 @11:41PM (#5384218) Homepage
    It's tired of hearing about Linux kernel releases every ten minutes.
  • It makes me feel old to know that I was alive when this thing launched!

    An online Starcraft RPG? Only at [netnexus.com]
    • Re:Wow! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kfg (145172) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @12:06AM (#5384346)
      When people ask me, "What sign?" I say, "Sputnik."

      If you think you feel old now, wait until you start getting old, my son. :)

      America's oldest man died on Monday. He was actually born in a log cabin and of high school age when the Wright Bros. first flew at Kitty Hawk.

      Think about that one the next time you feel "old." Your world has hardly moved at all compared to his.

      KFG
  • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Tuesday February 25, 2003 @11:42PM (#5384223) Homepage Journal

    But I won't believe Pioneer 10 is dying until Netcraft confirms it..
  • So long old friend (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 25, 2003 @11:42PM (#5384224)
    They just don't make 'em like they used to.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @12:07AM (#5384350)
      So sad, now it is only good for Klingon target practice. :(
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @12:23AM (#5384407)
      Note that the triumphs of NASA date from the era when engineers ran the programs, and not political hacks like now. I feel sorry for the young engineers now who will never experience the greatness which was NASA.

      There were no slackers then. There were dedicated young engineers with buzz cuts and and a slide rule. They didn't listen to "Hip Hop" or "Heavy Metal". They didn't wear baggy pants. They weren't interested in fashion or political correctness. Their uniform was a crisp white dress shirt, a string tie, and a pair of drip-dry Hagar slacks, accessorized with a leather holster--which held an 18 inch slide rule. Bang.

      These men were focused on quality and greatness. They were patriotic, dedicated men who strove each day to make America first with the best engineering the human mind could conceive.

      Today NASA is run by "professional" managers and bureaucrats. They cow-tow not to quality but to politically motivated "quotas" and false "diversity". Slackers abound. "Getting over" takes precedence over "getting it right".

      The saddest thing of all is not the failures of the current space program, as disturbing as they might be. The saddest thing is that we have lost the spirit and the system and methodology which yielded our greatest triumphs.

      • by aliens (90441) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @02:18AM (#5384900) Homepage Journal
        Cause we all know you can't accomplish anything unless you don't listen to that satan worshipping hardcore or that terrorist supporting hiphop. These kids now adays are a bunch of unworthy anti-americans.

        Only those people who continue to live in the 50's can possibly bring our great civilization forward. Right?

        The thing that hobbles NASA is the politicians and their demand for big results combined with the huge cuts in budget.

        I can't stand closed minded people. I'm sure you can work dilligently and continuously, you must be a blast to have as a friend.
      • by orenmnero (554064) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @03:43AM (#5385138) Homepage
        Huh? The primary engineers in the early days were Germans, including former Nazis, many of whom built rockets for V-2 missle program. After the war just as many went to Russia as came here. They went to any country that had the resources to pursue a space program.

        And there is no way you are going to tell me the space program was anything but politically motivated. It was a platform for Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon to show up the Russians. Johnson particularly used it to keep the nations mind off Vietnam.

        If anything, the lackluster movement of our space program can be attributed to a LACK of political motivation.

        Failure is part of the process. The success of Pioneer's 3-11 came as a result of the failures of pioneer 0-2. The ones where they didn't "get it right"

        It's also not like those engineers in the good old days never killed anybody [rochester.edu]. We've had three major disasters exploring space in 67, 86, and 03. All about 15 years apart or so. Not bad considering this is easily the toughest and most dangerous job in the world.
        • by stefanb (21140)
          Not bad considering this is easily the toughest and most dangerous job in the world.

          Well, no disrespect to anymone working in space programs, but there are a lot more dangerous jobs in the world. Just making the news now are the apparently attrocious conditions in China's mines [guardian.co.uk]: "More than 5,000 people were killed in coal mine accidents last year, according to the government."

      • by varjag (415848)
        Note that the triumphs of NASA date from the era when engineers ran the programs, and not political hacks like now.

        NASA was always run by politicians (remember what the space race was about?). It is mostly the difference in funding that makes current spaces program look miserable when compared to the glory past.
  • It is older than me by 14 years.

    Any one have any really really good pics its taken?
  • Rest in peace (Score:5, Insightful)

    by andyring (100627) on Tuesday February 25, 2003 @11:43PM (#5384229) Homepage
    Pioneer 10, and other satellites of that era, worked far beyond what they were intended, and did a darn good job (and then some) at what they did. Pioneer 10, you did good. May you rest in peace. A job well done.
    • Re:Rest in peace (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Provocateur (133110) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @12:40AM (#5384490) Homepage
      Pioneer isn't dead as long as its moving and carrying that plaque as its one final message from us.

      You know what I've always been looking for in the NASA site but could never get? Animated clips of its voyage (or that of Voyager's) and its fly-bys of the other planets. I always thought they would make really great looking screensavers to match my wallpapers of the shuttle. Anybody know where I can get them?

      Keep on flyin Pioneer
  • am I the only one (Score:5, Interesting)

    by outsider007 (115534) on Tuesday February 25, 2003 @11:43PM (#5384232)
    I worry that we're leaving a trial of breadcrumbs for conquering alien races to find us. fight the future.

    • Re:am I the only one (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Blondie-Wan (559212) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @12:09AM (#5384357) Homepage
      If that were a concern, the constant stream of radio, TV and other telecommunications signals we've been pumping into space for most of the 20th century would be a far bigger problem. There's effectively a big sphere of signals expanding around Earth in all directions at the speed of light, and anyone in space who chanced to stumble across any of our physical probes like Pioneer 10 would most likely have already detected us long, long before. Earth really calls a lot of attention to itself with its broadcasts, and our signals just get stronger and more blanketing as time goes by. Not only that, but even if we stopped all broadcasts tomorrow, there'd still be all our old signals moving out through space, and anyone out there with the wherewithal to detect them would be have several of our earth decades of opportunity in which to do so.

      Moreover, many think it's profoundly unlikely any alien races would be interested in conquering us. Even assuming others out there are hostile, the effort and expenditure of resources to get from there to here would probably mean the payoff for attacking us wouldn't be worth the trip.

      It's also been argued that any extraterrestrial civilizations capable of detecting us will almost certainly be much older and more advanced (the thinking being that on the cosmic timescale, we're just starting off, and any civilization even a little younger than ours wouldn't have the tech to detect us, and the odds are high against another civ reaching this stage of development against the exact same time we do, so if they can hear us they've probably been around a while), and that (presumably, anyway) anyone so advanced wouldn't be warlike, so we'd probably have a lot more to gain than to lose from others finding out about us. I'm certainly no expert, but this does strike me as a fairly reasonable line of thought.

      • Asside from a few projects designed to beam high-energy signals at spesific stars, most of the radio waves we send out will be so weak that they would never be able to be detected against background nose just a few lightyears away.
        • As a coherent signal, yes. As static, no way.

          The Earth emits almost as much RF radiation as a star. Anyone ET who has been watching our system for the last century would have noticed the massive climb. Anyone ET who is just starting to look at us would notice the anomaly. This would be visible anywhere in the appropriate radius, (about 70 light years), AND that radius is limited by lightspeed, not signal strength.
      • by phillymjs (234426) <slashdot&stango,org> on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @12:49AM (#5384544) Homepage Journal
        Moreover, many think it's profoundly unlikely any alien races would be interested in conquering us.

        I'm more worried about them seeing stuff like "American Idol," "Survivor," and "Joe Millionaire," and deciding we should all be exterminated, not subjugated.

        We can only hope that their positive perception of our race from the 13 years of Simpsons episodes we've pumped out can withstand the damage the later shows will do to it. :-)

        ~Philly
      • the effort and expenditure of resources to get from there to here would probably mean the payoff for attacking us wouldn't be worth the trip.

        My friend, you seem to be forgetting our [geocities.com] vast amounts of stable Energon [geocities.com]!
      • our signals just get stronger and more blanketing as time goes by

        Not so. While the total amount of RF power we are emitting may be increasing, it is becoming progressively less comprehensible. Most signals are now compressed, and the function of compression is to remove from any signal the redundant information that says "this is a signal" when you don't know how it is coded. Essentially, compression makes a signal resemble noise, and the better the compression the closer it is to noise. Sure, you need some kind of sync mark to lock onto the stream, which could in principle be detected, but that is a very small fraction of the signal.

        And we are tranmitting many more, much smaller signals. Instead of broadcasting tens or even hundreds of kilowatts from a hilltop to the universe at large, we are broadcasting a few tens of watts from orbit aimed straight at the earth, or sending it over cable, or broadcasting a few watts from cellphone masts or milliwatts from cellphones. The earths's RF output is raidly becoming indistinguishable from white noise, and from any reasonable distance will be swamped by the much bigger white noise generator nearby (the Sun).

        There is therefore a shell, perhaps a hundred light years thick, of "detectable" transmissions expanding out from the earth, which is already trailing off. To put it another way, any aliens out there will have a hundred year window to look in in the right direction if they are to detect us by our unintentional transmissions.

        Agree with the rest of your comment, though. The ides of aggressive/invasive aliens is purely to make good films/tv. You can't make a good drama out of civilisations getting in contact and just having a pleasant, though rather long drawn out, chat. But that is a far more likely outcome. Even if the cost is not orders of magnitude greater than any plausible benefit (the overwhelming likelihood, IMO), the likelihood of tehir being biologically compatible with us, our environment and our biological products is tiny. And if they don't want out biological products - there is a lot of rock out there to mine for mineral resources. Why try to mine the one bit that someone is sitting on?

        They don't have to be advanced not to want to attack us, they just have to be sensible enough to know what is in their own best interests. And a species which failed that test is unlikely to have space-faring civilisation.

    • by kfg (145172) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @12:11AM (#5384360)
      They're only coming to serve man.

      KFG
    • by Myriad (89793) <myriad@@@thebsod...com> on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @12:34AM (#5384459) Homepage
      I worry that we're leaving a trial of breadcrumbs for conquering alien races to find us. fight the future.

      Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh! No, make the pain stop! You are causing me a Battlefield Earth flashback! Not only did I watch that evil movie, I've read the damned book years before.

      Don't you know that's exactly how Psychlo's found Earth in the first place?

      Can I believe that I actually know that? Please, shoot me now before the Hubbard cultists get me!

  • by TeknoHog (164938) on Tuesday February 25, 2003 @11:44PM (#5384237) Homepage Journal
    Just because we can't hear its signals doesn't mean THEY don't. /me looks forward to the return of P'neer.
  • by nlinecomputers (602059) on Tuesday February 25, 2003 @11:45PM (#5384249)
    ...the Klingon bird of prey decloak, DUCK!

  • Another article (Score:3, Informative)

    by Zipster (555990) on Tuesday February 25, 2003 @11:46PM (#5384251)
    There is another article on the news.com.au [news.com.au] site in case the first goes down.
  • by mrs clear plastic (229108) <allyn@clearplastic.com> on Tuesday February 25, 2003 @11:47PM (#5384254) Homepage
    So Long
    So Long
    I'm Sorry to See You Go
    I'm So Sad You Are Gone
    I Dearly Miss Your Feeble Little Signal
    You May Be Gone
    But You Are In My Heart Forever
    My Tears Will Follow You Wherever You Go
  • Haiku (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sconeu (64226) on Tuesday February 25, 2003 @11:47PM (#5384255) Homepage Journal

    A little spacecraft
    Far away among the stars
    Rest well, Pioneer
  • by dWhisper (318846) on Tuesday February 25, 2003 @11:47PM (#5384258) Homepage Journal
    This is the second major deep space probe in the last few months that has gone south. Sad, because Pioneer 10 was the one that paved the way for so many other missions (like the Voyager Missions).

    Here's to a long and steady life to the remaining deep space missions out there.
  • by rice_web (604109) on Tuesday February 25, 2003 @11:48PM (#5384259)
    So, it's just dying out there? And what about our other "deep-space" probes? Yep, on the death bed.

    So, using rice_web's ingenious stupidity, I've come up with:

    (1) Send a new probe to follow our dying probes and act as a relay for the information.

    (2) Just completely start over and get new probes up and running, and moving more quickly than our dying probes.
    • Might be a good idea for future missions, but more than likely its batteries finaly died or couldn't produce enough current to thaw out the transmitter array, so I doubt it could leave a signal trail. But the staggered launch on the same vector would be a great idea for future series. Imagine a transmitter followed by a train of repeaters launched on the same vector every year.

      Is there a "radio" hubble or one in planing that tries to duplicate the hubble's mission of getting to orbit to try and avoid earthbound interference. Imagine a listening array on the far side of the moon to try and listen in on even fainter signals than we can pick up with the VLA or Aracebio[sp]
  • by Sergeant Beavis (558225) on Tuesday February 25, 2003 @11:48PM (#5384260) Homepage
    It was just Slashdotted, that's all.

    Watch, in 5 years, someone will hear from it again.

  • Lifespan? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 1000101 (584896) on Tuesday February 25, 2003 @11:48PM (#5384262)
    What is the approximate lifespan of the craft? Will the harsh environment of space eventually destroy it, or will it simply drift along forever? Unless of course it collides with something which I would think would be highly unlikely.
    • Re:Lifespan? (Score:3, Interesting)

      I think they said Pioneer 10 was lucky to have just survived the radiation it was exposed to as it passed Jupiter. I think it's safe to say that it last MUCH MUCH MUCH longer than anyone anticipated.
    • Re:Lifespan? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by kfg (145172) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @12:18AM (#5384387)
      Actually, other than the low temperature the enviroment of space isn't very harsh.

      It's when you start getting near things, like planets and stars, that things get dicey.

      Pioneer is heading the other way, and there isn't any reason that it shouldn't drift on for millions of years, God willing and the crick don't rise none.

      That's why they affixed the infamous plaque to it.

      KFG
  • Distance. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cybermace5 (446439) <g.ryan@macetech.com> on Tuesday February 25, 2003 @11:49PM (#5384264) Homepage Journal
    It's 7.6 billion miles away. Almost 12 hours at the speed of light. And it will take two million years to reach a star considered to be in our close neighborood.

    Incomprehensible space...it's incredibly daunting, yet unbelievably appealing. Pioneer 10 was sent out in the same spirit as the pioneers of early America: the lure of seemingly boundless space and undiscovered wonders.

    This pioneer is blazing a trail we all hope to follow someday. Goodbye Pioneer 10, you have served us well.
    • Re:Distance. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by digitalsushi (137809) <slashdot@digitalsushi.com> on Tuesday February 25, 2003 @11:56PM (#5384298) Journal
      2 million years eh? Ok, here's a thought to ponder. Think some...thing from Earth will go get it before it gets to the next local star?
      • ObHHGTG (Score:5, Funny)

        by jpetts (208163) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @12:11AM (#5384361)
        2 million years eh?

        Just time for another bath! Pass me the sponge, would you?
      • Maybe around the year 2300, if something along the lines of the Matrix occurs (however unlikely).

        Plenty of room for Matrix plotline expansion if the dodging-bullets-in-the-Matrix thing gets old: let's see how far the AI has gone in terms of space research. Would make it pretty interesting if an alien race began attacking Earth because they viewed it as a hostile Borg-like planet. Perhaps some of the less hostile AI, which we get to see in some of the upcoming sequels, would join forces with the humans to defend the planet.

        Anyway...it's not my job to come up with plot devices and make Hollywood any more money!
        • by TGK (262438)
          Or maybe the Aliens will send a giant probe that will send ultrasonic messages into the oceans in an attempt to get a certain harmonic to occur in New Zion.

          Of course this will disrupt earths weather pattersn and the AI will send someone back in time to 1980s San Fransisco in order to capture two completely sentient members of the human race.

          This is getting confusing. I wonder if they'll run into Sara Conner.
      • Re:Distance. (Score:5, Informative)

        by UniverseIsADoughnut (170909) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @01:02AM (#5384607)
        >> 2 million years eh? Ok, here's a thought to ponder. Think some...thing from Earth will go get it before it gets to the next local star?

        Very good chance, though i think by pass you mean go farther out. I just can't see one pulling up and going by it in the passing lane. Make for fun video though.

        Anyways. This is the problem with earth ship ideas and such. You build a huge ship and start leaving earth today, then 10 years later another group does. They by then have developed a faster earth ship, and soon pass you by. Thus you wasted years in space you could have been on earth.

        We have much faster probes today. Ion engine powered one could probably catch up to it fast. I remember a TLC episode or similar talking about them and how fast they go. They don't start fast but they just keap accelarating forever (pretty much) so they hit insane speeds. The thing we sent to that astoroid and landed on had an ion engine. It traveled way faster then anything else we ever put out there.
        • Re:Distance. (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Jason Pollock (45537)
          I have to disagree here. The best way is to get started and then improve your ship as you go. You will need generic manufacturing capabilities anyways (replacement parts), so why not build better engines?

          You have to have the ability to manufacture anything that Earth can simply to stay alive during the trip, so all you then need are the plans/templates, which is simple communication.

          So you start, improve your ship and speed up. No time wasted, and you still get there first.

          Unless of course someone invents FTL, in which case, you can't get the plans before they show up and say "hi".

          It's the same with hard computer problems. Sure, it may get faster later, but you start now and improve the hardware as you go. Don't assume a closed system!

          Jason Pollock
        • Re:Distance. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by snake_dad (311844) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @04:53AM (#5385254) Homepage Journal
          The thing we sent to that astoroid and landed on had an ion engine. It traveled way faster then anything else we ever put out there.

          I think you mean Deep Space 1 [nasa.gov], which has an ion engine and flew within 1,400 miles of comet Borelly. A little extra duty for that spacecraft, not unlike Pioneer greatly exceeding expectations. The one that landed on an asteroid was NEAR Shoemaker [jhuapl.edu], but it has normal thrusters. Both where extraordinary missions.

    • Well said.
      I wonder if someday we will pick Pioneer up again, or just let it drift forever. Were all probes sent with the "mankind peace" plaque? (the one that depicts a man and women and some other stuff that I can't remember)
      • Voyager had a disc. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Goonie (8651) <robert.merkel@TI ... ra.org minus cat> on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @12:58AM (#5384594) Homepage
        Both the Pioneer probes had the plaque.

        The Voyager probes were sent out with a gold disc which contains, amongst other things, greetings from Kurt Waldheim (former Secretary-General of the UN) amongst ones in a bunch of languages, the "sounds of Earth", including Beethoven and Chuck Berry, the sound of waves against the shore, and various other things, and a bunch of images of Earth life, as well as some instructions as to how to play the disc. It was Carl Sagan's project, IIRC.

        Of course, the odds of the probes ever being detected by extra-terrestrial intelligence is virtually zero, given their slow speed, tiny size, and the fact that they don't emit any signals (or more precisely won't by the time ET is in a position to spot them).

  • by Mr. Fusion (235351) on Tuesday February 25, 2003 @11:51PM (#5384277)
    She sure was a good ship.
    Farewell, Pioneer. And we thank you.

    -Mr. Fusion
  • by Stonent1 (594886)
    The first thing I thought of was Deep Space Nine. And I thought... My God, that thing has traveled far!
  • by jonman_d (465049) <nemilar@@@optonline...net> on Tuesday February 25, 2003 @11:58PM (#5384307) Homepage Journal
    If/when technology permits, we should make it a point to send a ship to retrieve the probe, for both practical and symbolic reasons. It'd be interesting to see the ware and tare on a craft that's been through so much as it has; and, it has a great historical value. As a sign of respect to itself and its builders, Pioneer deserves to be in a measeum of sorts.

    Of course, my other half tells me, for the same reasons, let it alone, in space, quietly, where its home is.
    • by UniverseIsADoughnut (170909) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @01:08AM (#5384638)
      The best way to honor it is to let it keap going. Just cause we haven't heard from it or won't doesn't mean it's job is done. It's out there and traveling even if all systems are dead. Some day something will find it. That's another part of it's mission. You wouldn't pull the statue of liberty down and put it in a mueaseum because it's done a good job. It's still doing it's job. Yeah I would like to see it to, but it's busy working right now.
  • Not too shocking... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mraymer (516227) <mraymer AT centurytel DOT net> on Tuesday February 25, 2003 @11:58PM (#5384310) Homepage Journal
    The thing has been going longer than it was ever intended to anyway. It's really cold and really far away, so it's not too shocking that it finally quit.

    Has SETI given up on it, too? I know they would do an informal test on their equipment by looking for the Pioneer 10 signal. SETI has been having problems tracking it for a few years at least... here's something Jill Tarter wrote about it. [msn.com]

    If a nuclear war or asteroid or other event destroys all of humanity, probes like this will be our only legacy...

  • ...are really cool. Nuclear powered naval vessels don't last a third as long as Pioneer's radioactive batteries have.

    It would be great if we could roll radioactive waste into similar devices to power cars, remote buildings, or even laptops--if we could effectively shield the power source with a small light enclosure.
    • Re:Radioisotopes (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @12:38AM (#5384482)
      ---..are really cool. Nuclear powered naval vessels don't last a third as long as Pioneer's radioactive batteries have.

      You dont have a clue. A nuclear submarine has 1 battery compartment. This battery is your 50 gallon drum nuclear battery. Those types of batteries have a lifespan (in the submarine) of about 20 years. For that 20 years, it takes care of propulsion, air bladders, CO2 scrubbers, and the 90V AC (I cant remember the freq offhand).

      For disposal, they seal these drums in bigger drums with the bottom of the bigger drum a lead/concrete mesh. They proceed to pour the similar mixture all around the barrel, sealing it totally. Then they lift it 2 miles down a hole in a mountain (Nevada). Once a floor is done, it's sealed by concrete and then a hatch is rivited and then soldered on.

      For what it's worth, ALL the nuclear waste in the US would fit in the dimensions of the football field 6 feet deep. Compare that to COx, NOx, SOx and other organic crap floating from tailpipes. After what I've seen, nuclear is the safest fuel, given non-idiots tending the reactor. You've never heard of a US nuclear powered sub go critical and meltdown. You wonder why? They arent the dumbasses like 3MI. Island.

      From somebody who knows a little too much.
      • Submarines use active fission, right? Pioneer's only harnesses energy from radioactive decay. It's much safer, and very low maintenance (for Pioneer, it's practically zero). I wasn't really positive on how often nuclear vessels need a refuelling--I thought I had read that the Nimitz's go for 8-10 years.

        You're definitely right about nuclear is by far the safest energy available today. Its problem is that the word "nuclear" scares the bajesus out of folks who don't know any better.
    • Great.. now instead of toshiba notebooks burning my lap, they will also irradiate my genitalia and give me mutated children!
  • Its a Lie (Score:2, Funny)

    by bastardman (631862)
    I just detected that probe the other day... wait... perhaps that was a different kind of probe. Never mind then.
  • by dmuth (14143) <doug.muth+slashd ... m ['gma' in gap]> on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @12:04AM (#5384336) Homepage Journal
    Did anyone else read that and think of the Verizon Wireless commercials?

    "Can you hear me NOW?!?"
  • Amateur time (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tqft (619476) <.ianburrows_au. .at. .yahoo.com.> on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @12:04AM (#5384338) Homepage Journal
    OK Pioneer is dying from whatever I read it appears the problem is the signal to noise ratio is too low.

    Perhaps all you amateurs with radio telescopes out there should ask NASA nicely (through whatever an organisation preferably) for the frequency and lcoation data that is not publicly available and do a big combined search.

    Do you have procedures/software for doing VLBI? It would be a good project to do build it around if you do not already.

    A few hours a day or days a month and you might still get some useful data from it.
    • Re:Amateur time (Score:5, Informative)

      by ender81b (520454) <[billd] [at] [inebraska.com]> on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @12:16AM (#5384378) Homepage Journal
      No offense but if NASA's DSN network, the most advanced tracking and recieving facility in the world, cannot detect it why would you think 1000 amateur astronomers would have any luck? I pulled this from the Voyager home page but presumably Pioneer would be much weaker:

      " The antennas must capture Voyager information from a signal so weak that the power striking the antenna is only 10 exponent -16 watts (1 part in 10 quadrillion). A modern-day electronic digital watch operates at a power level 20 billion times greater than this feeble level. "

      Then again I am no radio expert so maybe what you describe is feasible.
    • Re:Amateur time (Score:5, Informative)

      by Have Blue (616) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @03:28AM (#5385111) Homepage
      Very Long Baseline Interferometry increases resolution, not range. It won't help capture a signal too weak for any of the individual dishes to pick up.
  • by itallushrt (148885) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @12:08AM (#5384353) Homepage
    Why don't all you people stop thanking a hunk of metal and start thanking the scientist and engineers that designed, built, and launched Pioneer 10. They are the real reasons this post even exist.
    • I have to admit you have a point. The first thing I did when I saw this headline was go to my bookshelf and take out my copy of The Cosmic Connection, by Dr. Carl Sagan, and start crying.

      On the cover of the book is a photo of two humans against a field of stars, mimicing the plaque that Dr. Sagan designed to be affixed to Pioneer 10.

      This book was a personal gift from Carl to me. We "lost contact" with Dr. Sagan some years ago.

      So, Carl, ya done good, and I miss the bloody hell out of you. Goodnight and God bless.

      KFG
  • Ha! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Quasar1999 (520073) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @12:11AM (#5384362) Journal
    EchoStar and Bell should have gone with the guys that worked on that satellite... Check out how crappy modern satellites are (Lockheed Martin [sat-nd.com] for example)... hell, they're in low earth orbit and they can't last a whole month before dying(LM's Nimiq 2)... Pioneer went through the asteroid belt... come on... Evolution means going forward, not back... Can't we build reliable satellites of yesteryear?
    • Re:Ha! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Guppy06 (410832) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @02:07AM (#5384844)
      "EchoStar and Bell should have gone with the guys that worked on that satellite..."

      Apples and oranges. More like apples and rocks. First off, your metaphor breaks down as soon as you describe Pioneer 10 as a "satellite." It is most definately not a satellite.

      Communications satellites are put into earth-orbit with more transponders than you'd care to shake a stick at, its intention being to relay as many communications signals as it can back and forth between ground-based stations. Pioneer was built with one transmitter to beam back periodic signals.

      Communications satellites aren't built to last much longer than a few years to begin with. There is no reason to design one to last more than a dozen years or so when communications technology will outstrip the capabilities of the satellite in that time, requiring a replacement. It took Pioneer over a year just to get anywhere.

      Communications satellites are only 8.5 light-minutes or so from the sun, so there isn't any reason to put a more durable or expensive power supply on them beyond solar panels and batteries for night-time operation. Jupiter alone is more than four times that distance away, and the technology limitations of the time required a (much) more durable atomic solution.

      Geostationary satellites have to deal with those pesky laws of physics that dictate that they will always eventually fall out of orbit. Sure, they don't have to deal with atomspheric drag like LEO objects, but momentum transfer is still an issue. Pioneer isn't a satellite in the remotest sense of the word: It's obviously beyond escape velocity for our solar system, which means it will never come back.

      "Pioneer went through the asteroid belt"

      Lay off the Star Wars. Mass density in that region isn't anywhere near what Hollywood thinks it is. Space debris in earth orbit poses a far greater hazard than passing through the main asteroid belt.

      "Can't we build reliable satellites of yesteryear?"

      The true "satellites of yesteryear" aren't there any more. Try and find three US satellites still in earth orbit that were launched before, say, 1985.

      Now, if you want to talk about space probes, why would we build another Pioneer or even a Voyager when we could build another Magellan or Galileo?
  • Goddamn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cranos (592602) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @12:12AM (#5384365) Homepage Journal
    You know you are truly geek when something like this almost brings tears to your eyes. I mean this thing had less computing power than your average calculator and yet it managed to be useful for thirty years?
    See what happens when you actually give your space programme decent funding? You do something like this, something which comes close to making the human race look like something more than six billion savages scrabbling in the dirt.
    • I agree...but it only make the human race look like 5,999,000,000 savages scrabbling in the dirt. Do we even have 1,000,000 people in the world capable of doing something like this?
  • by chaparrl (579943) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @12:25AM (#5384413)
    From the info at Nasa's page on Pioneer 10 [nasa.gov] "A plaque was mounted on the spacecraft body with drawings depicting a man, a woman, and the location of the sun and the earth in our galaxy."
  • by dfenstrate (202098) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `etartsnefd'> on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @12:29AM (#5384432)
    Netcraft comfirms it.

    (you can shoot me now)
  • by PizzaFace (593587) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @01:34AM (#5384747)
    Pioneer 10's mission continues. Let's not forget the plaque [enterprisemission.com] that Pioneer 10 carries. It was world famous when the probe was launched, because it was mankind's first attempt to communicate [planetary.org] beyond the solar system. Carl Sagan designed the plaque to be universally (in the truest sense) comprehensible, at least to any civilization sufficiently advanced to capture it. Next to the map of the probe's origin relative to our galaxy, with its key in binary notation, was an etching of a generic man and woman, superimposed on an outline of Pioneer to give a sense of scale. The man's arm was raised in a gesture that Sagan hoped would suggest friendship. Especially given the public's then-new awareness of threats to humanity's survival as a species, there was something very poignant about this cosmic message in a bottle that had no chance of being seen by anyone for millions of years.

    I remember a newspaper cartoon from the day. A man in a business suit and a woman in a dress were looking at the plaque on Pioneer, which was half buried in the ground. The man said to the woman, "They seem very similar to us, except that they don't wear clothes."
  • by blair1q (305137) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @02:02AM (#5384831) Journal
    Just jump in the hyperdrive and go grab it and download it.

    We do have hyperdrive, right?

    I mean, it's 2003.

    We were supposed to be mining Jupiter's moons by now.

    We can't go get one little probe?

    What have we been doing with the last 30 years?
  • by ggwood (70369) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @03:20AM (#5385086) Homepage Journal
    I am saddened to hear that we lost contact with Pioneer 10 because we don't understand the forces acting on it. One would think that since we know gravity pretty well, and we know the relivant masses involved, we could predict the motion of the Pioneer satelites. Alas no. Exotic things like dark matter and photon pressure were invoked to explain the extra attraction (back) towards our sun, and failed. I heard a great talk about this while at U.C. Riverside department of Physics and had the chance to ask about photon pressure myself (yes, they take that into account - it is a far, far larger effect than this). The BBC has an old story on this effect, which I am sure many slashdotters have already heard of, here. [bbc.co.uk]

    By the way, a similar anomoly is seen in Pioneer 11 and another distant satelite (Ulysses perhaps???).

    Also, there is a link at nasa.gov, but at this time it seems broken. I include it for completeness here. [nasa.gov]

    It seems John Anderson and friends have written several articles on this. One which you might find interesing has been published in Physical Review D: here. [aps.org]
  • by darnok (650458) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @04:47AM (#5385242)
    ...an old geeky guy picks up his Coke, brushes the pizza crumbs off his gut, brushes spider web out of his waist length greasy hair, pushes his chair back and says "OK, who's gonna beat THIS uptime?"
  • by farnsaw (252018) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @06:45AM (#5385487) Homepage
    How about releasing it with all it's communication protocols, passwords, etc to the public domain. Who knows, there might be an enterprising young genius out there with an array of 120 foot (~40 meter) dishes. ;-)
  • by Tablizer (95088) on Wednesday February 26, 2003 @02:30PM (#5388182) Homepage Journal
    Pioneer had an interesting way of imaging. It did not really have a digital or TV camera like other probes did, but instead had a tube-like thingy that could point at only *one* narrow spot at a time, but could move back and forth. It used the *spin* of the probe to "scan" the target.

    The closest visual analogy I can think of is a phonograph record. The needle can only move right-to-left, so it relies on the rotation of the record to bring the different "sound spots" into "view". IIRC, the probe rotated at something like 6 times per minute. The 1D "stream" of light intensity readings was then reconstructed into a 2D image back here on Earth.

I'd rather just believe that it's done by little elves running around.

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