By Steve Kovacs (Introduction by Chuck Gibson)

LOVELAND, OH (December 4, 2023) – Today’s edition of Fun with Maps celebrates a close encounter in the great beyond.

Where No Man Has Gone Before

The Pioneer 10 planetary probe, launched in March 1972, became the first man-made object to send back close-up images of Jupiter.  The closest encounter was on December 4, 1973, 50 years ago today.

Pioneer 10 was also the first man-made object to escape the solar system.  It should be about 12 billion miles from earth now, although we are not certain that it is still in one piece as communications were lost in 2003 due to battery failure.

Traveling in different directions, both Voyager 1 and 2 launched later than Pioneer 10 are further from the earth than Pioneer 10 given their faster speeds.  Both Voyagers are still active, sending back signals.

None of these probes travel nearly at the speed Captain Kirk’s crew did on Star Trek, but they certainly are going where no man has gone before.

The celestial view presented here shows the motions of Mars, Jupiter and Saturn as observed from the earth.  It was created by Doppelmayr in 1742.  

Doppelmayr’s 1742 planetery chart. (Credit Steve Kovacs)

Steve Kovacs and his wife Theresa reside in Loveland, Ohio where they raised their two children. He is a passionate collector of antique maps.

Visit his antique map boutique world-on-paper online. Watch for his daily feature Steve Kovacs: Fun with Maps here on Loveland Beacon.