For over 30 years, the Pioneer 10 spacecraft sent photographs and scientific information back to Earth. Launched March 2, 1972, it reached speeds of 52,100 kilometers (32,400 miles) per hour on its flight to Jupiter, making it the fastest human-made object ever. After completing an investigation of Jupiter, Pioneer 10 continued on to the outer regions of the solar system, studying solar wind and cosmic rays.
Having gone further into space than any other object sent from Earth, Pioneer's last weak signal was received on January 22, 2003, from approximately 12.2 billion kilometers (7.6 billion miles) from Earth. NASA engineers reported that Pioneer 10's radioisotope power source had degraded and was not likely to allow future transmissions.
As it drifts into interstellar space, Pioneer 10 will continue to carry a plaque designed to inform intelligent life that may find it about the spacecraft and its origins. The prototype spacecraft displayed here was constructed for NASA by TRW, Inc. Transferred from National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Courtesy National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution