Pioneer 0, 1, 2
Pioneers 0, 1 and 2 were the first U.S. spacecraft to attempt to leave Earth orbit. Propelled by the U.S.'s desire to beat the Soviet Union to the moon, each of the three vehicles was designed to go into orbit around the Moon and photograph the Moon's surface. None of the vehicles accomplished its intended mission, although some useful data was returned. The first vehicle, Pioneer 0, was launched by the USAF and was destroyed 77 seconds after launch when the rocket's first stage exploded. Following this attempt, Pioneer 1 and Pioneer 2 were turned over to United States' newly formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Pioneer 1 was the first spacecraft launched by NASA. A programming error in the Pioneer 1 launch vehicle upper stage resulted in Pioneer 1 being given insufficient velocity to escape the Earth's gravitational field. Although lunar orbit was not achieved, it did reach an altitude of 113854 km above Earth and provided data on the extent of the Earth's radiation belts. The vehicle reentered over the Pacific Ocean 2 days later. Pioneer 2 also suffered a launch vehicle failure and reentered the Earth's atmosphere 6 hours and 52 minutes after launch (it did not return any significant data).
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