Pioneer 10: Last Chance to Phone Home

Pioneer 10 (c) NASA

Just listening to a podcast of the Planetary Society where they were talking to John Anderson (Senior Research Scientist, JPL) about their research in to the Pioneer Anomaly and he mentioned that the last possible chance to communicate with Pioneer 10 will be coming up around the 4th March this year.

To give you an idea of the difficulties they face, they will be trying to detect a signal strength of around 8 watts coming from a craft 3 times as far away as Pluto is from us. Imagine having to first of all turn on a lightbulb 90 times as far away as the Sun by sending a signal, waiting over 12 hours for it to get there and (hopefully) start transmitting back and then waiting another 12 and a bit hours for that signal to come back to Earth and then try and catch it!

If the Deep Space Network does come onboard for this, and it works, then this will be the final icing on the cake for the Pioneer Anomaly team as that’ll be yet more red shift information to add to the the almost 40GB of data they’ve recovered from both the Pioneer 10 and 11 missions.