Summary of Lunar Spacecraft
Section M 2.1.
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Pioneer Missions Summary

Larry Klaes


PIONEER 1 through 3 failed to meet their main objective - to photograph the Moon close-up - but they did reach far enough into space to provide new information on the area between Earth and the Moon, including new data on the Van Allen radiation belts circling Earth. All three craft had failures with their rocket launchers. PIONEER 1 was launched on October 11, 1958, PIONEER 2 on November 8, and PIONEER 3 on December 6.

PIONEER 4 was a Moon probe which missed the Moon and became the first U.S. spacecraft to orbit the Sun in 1959. PIONEER 5 was originally designed to flyby Venus, but the mission was scaled down and it instead studied the interplanetary environment between Venus and Earth out to 36.2 million kilometers in 1960, a record until MARINER 2. PIONEER 6 through 9 were placed into solar orbit from 1965 to 1968: PIONEER 6, 7, and 8 are still transmitting information at this time. PIONEER E (would have been number 10) suffered a launch failure in 1969.

PIONEER 10 became the first spacecraft to flyby Jupiter in 1973. PIONEER 11 followed it in 1974, and then went on to become the first probe to study Saturn in 1979. Both vehicles should continue to function through 1995 and are heading off into interstellar space, the first craft ever to do so.

PIONEER Venus 1 (1978) (also known as PIONEER Venus Orbiter, or PIONEER 12) burned up in the Venusian atmosphere on October 8, 1992. PVO made the first radar studies of the planet's surface via probe. PIONEER Venus 2 (also known as PIONEER 13) sent four small probes into the atmosphere in December of 1978. The main spacecraft bus burned up high in the atmosphere, while the four probes descended by parachute towards the surface. Though none were expected to survive to the surface, the Day probe did make it and transmitted for 67.5 minutes on the ground before its batteries failed.

Summary of Lunar Spacecraft

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