Lost NASA spacecraft phones home

Pioneer 10: sending messages from beyond.

Despite being over 7 billion miles from home, the small NASA spacecraft Pioneer 10 has managed to send a signal back to its ground controllers ending speculation that it had finally fallen silent.

NASA scientists had heard nothing from the 29-year-old spacecraft since last summer. But a signal sent up from a radiotelescope facility in Madrid, Spain a test of communications technologies for future missions was received by Pioneer 10, which then returned a signal to Madrid.

Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to make direct observations of Jupiter, and finished its mission in 1997. It is currently heading towards the Taurus constellation but will take 2 million years to reach the nearest of its stars.

From: Nature, May 10, 2001