The Pioneer 10 Researches Jupiter

The Cold War space race in the 1960s allowed NASA to take a man to the moon, but an investigation of the moon would not satisfy scientists in later years. The 1970s was characterized by the United States’ first attempts to try and gather data about the outer planets in our solar system and the vast amounts of space that lies beyond. Through the limitation of technology, scientists had been left to only speculate about features of the outer planets in our solar system; this was a problem that could be countered if a space craft was able to investigate the planets first hand. The first attempt to realize this goal was the Pioneer space program, which brought forth the Pioneer 10 space probe. This probe, which was one of the first of its kind, was given the unprecedented task of exploring Jupiter, its moons, the asteroid belt and eventually the outer regions of our solar system and heliosphere. The Pioneer 10 was equipped with all of the most advance equipment of the time, which included instruments to analyze cosmic rays, magnetic fields, solar wind, meteoroid-asteroid detectors, hydrogen and helium detectors, temperature analyzers and a high resolution camera. On March 2, 1972, the Pioneer 10 would set out on its journey to study Jupiter in hopes of helping to solve the many mysteries that the planet held.

Upon reaching Jupiter in December of 1973, Pioneer 10 was able to make a wide variety of discoveries as it completed the first-ever observation of Jupiter. The probe was able to capture the first images of Jupiter, along with its most well-known Galilean moons. While studying Jupiter and its composition, NASA’s probe was able to make some shocking discoveries. While scientists had speculated that Jupiter was a gaseous planet, Pioneer 10 discovered that the entire planet was composed primarily of fluid. In addition to this discovery, Pioneer 10 also confirmed that Jupiter has a magnetic field, which was at the time believed to be the only other planet in the solar system to have one. Pioneer 10 was also able to photograph Jupiter’s famous Great Red Spot, which is a 30,000 mile long storm that has always been a part of Jupiter’s mystery. After analyzing the planet’s atmosphere, Pioneer also discovered that Jupiter’s atmosphere consists of primarily hydrogen (71%) and helium (24%).

Pioneer 10 would continue on its journey and push towards the farthest boundaries of our solar system, but not before sending all of this valuable data back to Earth. As the years continued, the Pioneer 11 and Voyager programs would gather more information about Jupiter and further increase scientists understanding of the planet. In a few decades time, scientists have been able to discover important information about Jupiter’s composition, atmosphere, numerous moons, magnetic field, Great Red Spot and a host of other information. Currently, NASA plans to launch an orbital probe that will allow scientists to study Jupiter in more detail than previous flyby missions were able to provide.




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