Fresh lease

Published: Sunday 31 December 1995

The Pioneer 11, which had transmit- ted some spectacular pictures of Jupiter and its moons, is now drifting towards interstellar space some 6.5 billion kin from the earth. Its power generators, four radioisotope thermoelectric generators and electronic gear have outlived themselves. The spacecraft's radio transmissions are now too weak to be of any use to scientific research (Science, Vol 269, September 22, 1995).

Surprisingly, its twin - the Pioneer 10 - launched in 1972, still has a few years of power. By study- ing the Pioneer I I's electronic sys- tems, scientists hope to increase the life of the other satellite by a few months.

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