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Pioneer 10 phones home
Posted: Sun, Mar 3, 2002, 1:55 PM ET (1855 GMT)
Pioneer 10 The NASA spacecraft Pioneer 10 contacted controllers on Earth Saturday, 30 years to the day after it was launched into the outer solar system. Spacecraft controllers transmitted a signal to the spacecraft Friday from a Deep Space Network antenna in California, in the hopes that the spacecraft would respond; the response was received by another DSN antenna in Spain 22 hours later. The contact was the first made with the 30-year-old spacecraft, now 80 AU (12 billion kilometers) from the Sun, since July 2001. The spacecraft is still returning data from its sole remaining operating instrument, the Geiger Tube Telescope, which measures cosmic ray intensity. The signal, while weak, is still strong enough to lead the project manager to believe that contact with the spacecraft is still possible for at least one more year.
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