The Mission and Spacecraft Library


The Pioneer series of spacecraft performed first-of-their-kind explorations of the Sun, Jupiter, Saturn and Venus. The different missions had little in common except that they all paved the way for later in-depth investigations, and were all spin stabilized.

Pioneer 0, 1, and 2 were the United States' first lunar attempts. These identical spacecraft, which all failed to meet their lunar objectives, were followed by Pioneer 3 and 4, which succeeded in becoming America's first successful lunar missions. Pioneer 5 provided the first maps of the interplanetary magnetic field. Pioneers 6,7,8, and 9 were the world's first solar monitoring network and provided warnings of increased solar activity which could affect Earth orbiting satellites and ground systems. The twin Pioneer 10 and 11 vehicles were the first spacecraft to ever visit Jupiter and Saturn. The craft performed a wide variety of scientific observations of the two planets and returned environmental data that was used during the design of the more sophisticated Voyager probes. The Pioneer Venus mission, consisting of the Pioneer Venus Orbiter (Pioneer 12) and Pioneer Venus Multiprobe (Pioneer 13), was the United States' first long-term mission to observe Venus and studied the structure and composition of the Venusian atmosphere. The mission also provided the first radar map of the planet's surface.

Related QuickLook Pages:

Launch Facts
 Name  Int'l Desig.  Date  Site  Vehicle  Orbit  Mass(kg)
 Pioneer 0 (Thor Able 1)    8/17/58  ESMC  Thor Able  FTO  38
    1st stage malfunction; 1st US lunar attempt
 Pioneer 1  1958-[Eta]1  10/11/58  ESMC  Thor Able  HEO  38
    Set distance record; failed to reach moon
 Pioneer 2  none  11/8/58  ESMC  Thor Able  FTO  39
    3rd stage ignition unsuccessful
 Pioneer 3  1958-[Theta]1  12/6/58  ESMC  Juno 2  HEO  6
    Failed to reach moon; provided radiation data
 Pioneer 4  1959-[Nu]1  3/3/59  ESMC  Juno 2  Solar  6
    Passed within 60000 km. of moon
 Pioneer 5  1960-[Alpha]1  3/11/60  ESMC  Thor Able  Solar  43
    Solar research
 Pioneer 6  1965-105A  12/16/65  ESMC  Delta E  Solar  63
    Measured solar wind, Sun's magnetic field
 Pioneer 7  1966-075A  8/17/66  ESMC  Delta E  Solar  63
    Monitored solar wind, cosmic rays
 Pioneer 8  1967-123A  12/13/67  ESMC  Delta E  Solar  63
    Solar radiation data
 Pioneer 9  1968-100A  11/8/68  ESMC  Delta E  Solar  63
    Solar radiation data
 Pioneer E  none  8/27/69  ESMC  Delta L  FTO  67
    1st stage hydraulics failure; destroyed by range safety
 Pioneer 10  1972-012A  3/3/72  ESMC  Atlas Centaur  SSET  259
    Jupiter flyby 12/73; 1st man-made object to leave solar system. Operations were discontinued on 3/31/97 because of power limitations. Spacecraft continues its voyage into deep space.
 Pioneer 11  1973-019A  4/6/73  ESMC  Atlas Centaur  SSET  259
    Jupiter flyby 12/74; Saturn flyby 9/1/79
 Pioneer 12  1978-051A  5/20/78  ESMC  Atlas Centaur  Venus  582
    Venus orbiter
 Pioneer 13  1978-078A  8/8/78  ESMC  Atlas Centaur  Venus  904
    Dropped 4 probes in Venus atmosphere 12/9/78; burned up in atmosphere on same day

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