Bon voyage: Pioneer 10 spacecraft bids adieu

After more than 30 years, it appears the venerable Pioneer 10 spacecraft has sent its last signal to Earth. Pioneer’s last, very weak signal was received on Jan. 22, 2003. NASA engineers report Pioneer 10’s radioisotope power source has decayed, and it may not have enough power to send additional transmissions to Earth. NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN) did not detect a signal during the last contact attempt Feb. 7, 2003. The previous three contacts, including the Jan. 22 signal, were very faint with no telemetry received. The last time a Pioneer 10 contact returned telemetry data was April 27, 2002. NASA has no additional contact attempts planned for Pioneer 10.

NASA Mission Control Center Status Report #21

NASA engineers continued to review data and recover debris from the Space Shuttle Columbia today as the analysis of what caused the orbiter to break up Saturday en route to landing continued. Space Shuttle Program Manager Ron Dittemore told an afternoon briefing that several teams of engineers are making progress in their study of data and video from Columbia’s launch and entry, but cautioned that it is a “massive job” requiring round-the-clock efforts to piece together the events that led to a loss of communications with the Shuttle over north central Texas 16 minutes prior to touchdown.