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Goodbye, Pioneer 9.

Goodbye, Pioneer 9

A little space probe called Pioneer 9,which was launched on Nov. 8, 1968, into a vast, sun-circling orbit, has finally been given up for dead--nearly four years after it was last heard from.

Having spent almost a decade and ahalf monitoring the solar wind, cosmic rays and other phenomena, the craft broadcast its last successful message to earth on May 15, 1983. Why it stopped is unclear--a short-circuit, perhaps, or a meteorite impact?--but engineers at the NASA Ames Research Center kept trying to bring it back to life, periodically sending computer commands when the probe, earth and the sun were in proper positions, and listening with increasingly sensitive receivers for any hint of a response. The final attempt, involving 80 separate command sequences, was made on March 3, with no result.

Still at work, however, are similarlyequipped Pioneers 6 through 8, as well as Pioneers 10 and 11, on their way out of the solar system after becoming the first craft to visit Jupiter and Saturn, and Pioneer 12, in orbit around the planet Venus. "We're sorry to lose Pioneer 9,' says engineer Robert Jackson, "but it had its day in the sun.'
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Title Annotation:space probe given up for dead
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Product/Service Evaluation
Date:Mar 14, 1987
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