Fifty years ago in April, the spacecraft Pioneer 11 departed Earth for what was intended to be a mission to Jupiter. Mid-course, however, scientists at NASA’s Ames Research Center decided that after visiting Jupiter, the probe would venture even farther, using the giant planet’s gravitational field to hurtle its way toward Saturn. In September 1979, Pioneer 11 became the first spacecraft to fly by the ringed planet—an event captured here in an artist’s rendering. As a result of this encounter, much was learned about Saturn’s magnetic field. Two new moons were also identified, as was Saturn’s outermost F ring. The last transmission from Pioneer 11 reached Earth on November 24, 1995. To this day, it continues its journey into the great unknown.
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