August 31, 2009 - Pioneering Spirit

Pioneering Spirit Launched in 1973, Pioneer 11 was the second spacecraft to fly past Jupiter and the first to explore Saturn. Pioneer 11’s hairpin turn around Jupiter in 1974 hurled the spacecraft back over the Sun to the opposite side of the solar system on a five-year journey to Saturn, where it arrived thirty years ago this week. Pioneer 11 made a number of discoveries at Saturn, including the thin F ring and a new satellite. The spacecraft also made the first direct readings of Saturn’s magnetic field and took the first closeup images of its largest moon, Titan. Pioneer 11 then proved that a spacecraft could cross the plane of Saturn’s rings without harm—important news for future spacecraft that would explore Saturn, such as Cassini, which took this stunning view of the “dark” side of Saturn in September 2006.

Image credit: NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute


Weekly Calendar

August 31 - September 6, 2009

Holidays - Sky Events - Space History

Moon phase Monday 31

Moon at apogee

Moon phase Tuesday 1

1964: First Titan IIIA launched
1979: Pioneer 11 becomes first spacecraft to fly past Saturn

Moon phase Wednesday 2

Jupiter 3° south of Moon

Moon phase Thursday 3

Neptune 3° south of Moon

1970: NASA cancels last two planned lunar landings
1976: Viking 2 lands on Mars
2006: SMART-1 spacecraft intentionally crashed into Moon

Moon phase Friday 4

Full Moon 12:03 pm

Moon phase Saturday 5

Uranus 6° south of Moon

1964: OGO-1 launched
1977: Voyager 1 launched

Moon phase Sunday 6

Mercury appears stationary

1947: First rocket launch (V-2) from an aircraft carrier
1983: STS-8 Challenger makes first shuttle night landing

Suggestions for new history dates or better links? Corrections for errors on this page? Please e-mail me.