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Pioneer 1
Pioneer 1 -

Credit: NASA. 17,603 bytes. 267 x 227 pixels.

Class: Planetary. Type: Lunar. Nation: United States. Agency: USAF, NASA. Manufacturer: Space Technology Laboratories (TRW).

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 re-entered over the Pacific Ocean 2 days later. Pioneer 2 also suffered a launch vehicle failure and re-entered the Earth's atmosphere 6 hours and 52 minutes after launch (it did not return any significant data). Spacecraft: Paint pattern for thermal control of multi-instrument payload. Spin stabilised. Retro-rocket for lunar orbit insertion. Payload: TV camera. Magnetometer. Micrometeroid impact detector. Radiation detector.


Design Life: 1 week. Total Length: 0.8 m. Maximum Diameter: 0.7 m. Total Mass: 38 kg.

Pioneer 0-1-2 Chronology

17 August 1958 Pioneer (1) Program: Pioneer. Launch Site: Cape Canaveral . Launch Vehicle: Thor Able. FAILURE: Thor exploded after 77 sec. Mass: 38 kg.

First US lunar attempt. The first US Air Force lunar probe, using a Thor-Able booster. An explosion ripped it apart 77 seconds after launch.

11 October 1958 Pioneer 1 Program: Pioneer. Launch Site: Cape Canaveral . Launch Vehicle: Thor Able. FAILURE: Third stage produced insufficient thrust. Partial Failure. Mass: 38 kg.

Set distance record; failed to reach moon.

08 November 1958 Pioneer 2 Program: Pioneer. Launch Site: Cape Canaveral . Launch Vehicle: Thor Able. FAILURE: Third stage ignition unsuccessful. Mass: 39 kg.

Pioneer 2 was launched from the Atlantic Missile Range, using a Thor-Able booster, the Air Force acting as executive agent to NASA. The 86.3-pound instrumented payload, intended as a lunar probe, failed to reach escape velocity.


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Last update 12 March 2001.
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© Mark Wade, 2001 .