Pioneer 10 was an American space probe that completed the first mission to the planet Jupiter. Thereafter, Pioneer 10 became the first spacecraft to achieve escape velocity from the Solar System. It was launched on March 2, 1972. Between 1972-1973, it became the first spacecraft to traverse the asteroid belt.
During the mission, the on-board instruments were used to study the asteroid belt, the environment around Jupiter, the solar wind, cosmic rays, and eventually the far reaches of the Solar System and heliosphere.
At the behest of Carl Sagan, Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 carry a 152 by 229 mm (6.0 by 9.0 in) gold-anodized aluminum plaque in case either spacecraft is ever found by intelligent life-forms from another planetary system. The pulsar map and hydrogen atom diagram are shared in common with the Voyager Golden Record.
The plaques feature the nude figures of a human male and female along with several symbols that are designed to provide information about the origin of the spacecraft. Pioneer 10 encountered Jupiter in 1973, crossed the orbit of Saturn in 1976, the orbit of Uranus in 1979 and the orbit of Neptune in 1983 - and so became the first human-made object to leave the proximity of the major planets of the Solar System.
Radio communications were lost with Pioneer 10 on January 23, 2003, because of the loss of electric power for its radio transmitter, with the probe at a distance of 12 billion kilometers (80 AU) from Earth.
In 32,605 years, the probe will pass within 3.2 light-years of the red dwarf star Ross 248 in the Andromeda constellation and fly by the white giant star Altair in 227,068 years.
Its course is pointed in the direction of the star Aldebaran at a distance of 68 light-years, which it will reach in two million years.