Almost 50 years after the launch of the Pioneer 10 probe


Almost 50 years after the launch of the Pioneer 10 probe

It was the spearhead of projects like Voyager or Hubble. Secrets of a technological milestone of the 70. What it says and where is the first message for aliens.

The exploration of the universe is marked by great milestones prior to Pioneer 10, from the first flight into space - by the Soviet Yuri Gagarin, in 1961 - to the arrival of man on the Moon, in 1969, by the Apollo 11 mission. However, this probe opened a new stage of research and was the spearhead for expeditions perhaps best known today, such as Voyager 1 and 2 (launched in 1977) or the Hubble space telescope (1990).

Almost 50 years after its historic launch at Cape Canaveral (on March 2, 1972), Pioneer 10 broke with the "localism" of space exploration until then: it is that, in the context of the Solar System, the Moon is like our backyard, and Mars, just the next-door neighbor. The effective investigation of our Solar System (and from there to the Milky Way and the rest of the universe) began with the departure of this small 258-kg ship, the first to fly over Jupiter and the rest of the outer planets until it was lost in the cosmos. in perpetuity.

The great challenge was not so much what to say but how to do it intelligently so that non-human beings can understand us and know that we existed. 

The creators of the mission were aware that this was the first artificial object that would enter the depths of the universe, and so it was decided to equip the probe with the first message directed to intelligent extraterrestrial life: a 15-inch aluminum plate. by 23 centimeters, with the representation of a man and a woman, the position of the Earth in the Solar System and that of this in the galaxy. 

The proposal was made by Carl Sagan, then a NASA adviser, long before his television success with the Cosmos series. The plate would be the predecessor of the Voyager gold record, a more complete message, with images and sounds (including the rock anthem Johnny B.Goode by Chuck Berry). At the time, the Pioneer 10 was the fastest human-made object, reaching 132,000 km / h.