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The first spacecraft to visit Saturn, Pioneer 11

The first spacecraft to visit Saturn, Pioneer 11

The first spacecraft to visit Saturn, Pioneer 11

On this day during on October 01, 1979, The American space probe Pioneer 11 becomes the first spacecraft to visit Saturn. It passes the planet at a distance of 21,000 kilometres (13,000 mi).

Pioneer 11 image of Saturn taken on 1979/09/01
Image of Saturn taken on 1979/09/01
Pioneer 11 image of Saturn taken on 1979/08/26
Image of Saturn taken on 1979/08/26

Pioneer 11

Pioneer 11, also known as Pioneer G, its a robotic space probe launched on April 5, 1973, at 02:11:00 UTC, by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) from Space Launch Complex 36A at Cape Canaveral, Florida aboard an Atlas-Centaur launch vehicle, with a Star 37E propulsion module.

Pioneer 11 launching from Launch Complex 36A.
Launching from Launch Complex 36A

It sent to study the asteroid belt, the environment around Jupiter and Saturn, solar winds, and cosmic rays. Its twin probe, Pioneer 10, launched a year earlier on March 3, 1972.

It was the first probe to encounter Saturn and the second to fly through the asteroid belt. It also the second to fly by Jupiter. Later, it became the second of five artificial objects to achieve an escape velocity allowing it to leave the Solar System.

However, due to power constraints and the vast distance to the probe, the last routine contact with the spacecraft was on September 30, 1995. The last better engineering data received on November 24, 1995.

Its mission was end after 22 years, 5 months, 25 days, making its last contact on September 30, 1995.

Pioneer 11

Spacecraft design

An artist's impression of a Pioneer spacecraft on its way to interstellar space.
An artist’s impression of a Pioneer spacecraft on its way to interstellar space.

Its bus measures 36 centimeters (14 in) deep and with six 76-centimeter-long (30 in) panels forming the hexagonal structure. The bus houses propellant to control the orientation of the probe and eight of the twelve scientific instruments. The spacecraft has a mass of 260-kilogram (570 lb).

Commemoration

In 1991, Its was honored on one of 10 United States Postage Service stamps commemorating unmanned spacecraft exploring each of the then nine planets and the Moon.