One of the things I’ve been trying to do with Solar Explorer is to create a model of every spacecraft that is a pioneer in some way.
I began this with Voyager 1 and 2 because in addition to being famous, many of the planet and moon surfaces in this app are created from photos taken by their cameras.
Today’s update, the last for the year, adds a pair of important robotic probes, and although they didn’t produce spectacular photos, their journey blazed the trail that Voyager 1 and 2 would take.
I am of course referring to Pioneer 10 and 11.
In addition to performing useful scientific experiments, they travelled through the Asteroid belt to spot any objects that might endanger craft that followed. Pioneer 11 trialled the gravitational slingshot method for visiting other planets which was later exploited so successfully by the Voyager probes. Once at Saturn, Pioneer 11 was then directed to fly through it’s rings to see if it would collide with any ring material and determine the risk to Voyager 1 and 2 of passing close to Saturn.
Sure, the Pioneer program did win an Emmy award at the time for providing unprecedented live coverage, but once Voyager 1 and 2 started beaming back their spectacular images, Pioneer 10 and 11 were all but forgotten.