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Pioneer 10 alive, well, and returning data
Posted: Thu, May 3, 2001, 11:08 AM ET (1508 GMT)
Pioneer 10 NASA has restored contact with the distant Pioneer 10 spacecraft and believe the distant probe is still returning data, project officials said this week. Signals from the spacecraft, 11.75 billion kilometers from Earth, were received April 28 by a Deep Space Network antenna in Madrid, Spain, the first time the spacecraft had been heard from since August of last year. The lack of contact since August, including a failed detection by the giant Arecibo radio telescope earlier this year, had led many to believe that the 29-year-old spacecraft had finally failed. Instead, project officials say, the spacecraft is only returning data when it receives transmissions from the Earth. "In order for Pioneer 10 to talk to us, we need to talk to it," said project manager Larry Lasher. The spacecraft, the first to fly by Jupiter, now has only one functioning instrument, a Geiger tube Telescope used to measure cosmic ray intensities, which allow scientists to look for the heliopause, the boundary between interplanetary and interstellar space. Project officials believe that data from the instrument was returned in this latest communication, but have not had the opportunity to examine it yet.
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