Pioneer 10 (originally designated Pioneer F) is an American space probe, weighing 258 kilograms, that completed the first mission to the planet Jupiter. Thereafter, Pioneer 10 became the first spacecraft to achieve escape velocity from the Solar System. This space exploration project was conducted by the NASA Ames Research Center in California, and the space probe was manufactured by TRW.
Pioneer 10 was assembled around a hexagonal bus with a 2.74 meter diameter parabolic dish high-gain antenna, and the spacecraft was spin stabilized around the axis of the antenna. Its electric power was supplied by four radioisotope thermoelectric generators that provided a combined 155 watts at launch.
Pioneer 10 was launched on March 3, 1972, by an Atlas-Centaur expendable vehicle from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Between July 15, 1972, and February 15, 1973, it became the first spacecraft to traverse the asteroid belt. Photography of Jupiter began November 6, 1973, at a range of 25,000,000 km, and a total of about 500 images were transmitted. The closest approach to the planet was on December 4, 1973, at a range of 132,252 km. 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. 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.