Monday, July 25, 2005

NASA to abandon Pioneer data

According to this posting in Slashdot, NASA is set to decommission the last computer capable of reading data from its Pioneer spacecraft (right). At stake are the first 15 years of transmissions.
This additional and thus far unexamined data (the data after 1988 is available and has already been examined) may hold the key to solving what is considered one of the top problems in physics today, the so called Pioneer anomaly, where the observed trajectory of these spacecraft (and a couple others) deviates noticeably from our very precise expectation.
Pioneer 10 launched in early 1972 and contact was last made in 2002. NASA has no plans to make further contact with the craft. The Pioneer site says:
Pioneer 10 will continue to coast silently as a ghost ship through deep space into interstellar space, heading generally for the red star Aldebaran, which forms the eye of Taurus (The Bull). Aldebaran is about 68 light years away and it will take Pioneer over 2 million years to reach it.
... thus becoming an earth-originated UFO, one with (at that point) an unrecoverable history.

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