Pioneer 10 ... 2 million years to Aldebaran ... condition?

So Pioneer 10 has said its last goodbye.

The article says the probe will reach Aldebaran in 2 million years. If, by some miracle, a civilization is there, happens to notice a tiny object entering its system, and is able to intercept it, what will Pioneer 10 look like by that point? Still relatively the same as it does today? Or will it just be a hideous lump from 2 million years of micrometeorite pitting?

There probably isn’t a very high micrometeorite count in interstellar sspace. I’d expect it would encouter the highest densities within the two star systems, with a rapid dropoff once it passed through each system’s respective Oort cloud.

Planetary Society article

I wonder about rotation. Once orientation control is lost, it will tend to tumble. Highly asymmetric objects in space (i.e., manmade stuff) tend to increase their tumbling rate over time. After a couple million years, how fast might it be tumbling? Fast enough to throw off parts? Just another thing to worry about…

Not to doubt you, ftg, but the law of conservation of momentum would seem to disagree with you. Where does this extra rotational velocity come from? I can only hypothesize that it would come from a reduction in linear velocity, but from whence? Have you a cite?

Uneven forces on the spacecraft due to the pressure of solar/cosmic “wind” particles? I imagine if the craft has, say, a panel with a lot of surface area sticking out of one side (this is just for effect … I know Pioneer was radioisotope- not solar-powered) without a matching one on the other, gradual pressure on it from a steady particle source could push it away, spinning the craft.

Keep Pioneer away! Alderaan is peaceful. They have no weapons… Oh wait did you say Aldebaran? Sorry.

Okay, let’s turn this around: Suppose, 2 million years ago, the Aldebaranian High Council fired a probe out past the outermost planets in their system, then let it coast out of the system.

What should we be looking for? Do we have the technology to track something like this? Didn’t we lose a probe a year or so ago, with no way to spot it or track it down?

And where have the Aldebaranians been these last two million years?

I was just reminded of Heinleni’s Time for the Stars, where an exploratory ship was sent out, and spent decades bopping from system to system, and at the end, technology had advanced enough that somebody back on Earth hopped into the latest model starship, caught up to them, and upgraded their systems.

I would think an object the size of a grain of sand would be enough to blast Pioneer to kingdom come. I doubt there are a lot of those in its path, however.

Very probably not. Or, at least, the odds are high against us spotting it, and even higher against us catching it.

Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendevous with Rama gives a great look at how tough this sort of thing would be–and Rama was enormous (miles long?) and the Earth, at that point in history, had a massive network of Near Earth Asteroid-detecting posts in operation (since Italy had been largely obliterated by a large meteorite that no one saw coming) to spot it.

I think Pioneer will return to Earth in search of its maker after being turned into a big cloud.

…and it will change its name to P’ner.

Unless it’s destroyed by a rogue Klingon cruiser.

as long as there are hot bald chicks involved, I don’t care what it calls itself


Anyone else feel kind of glad/proud (can’t think of an appropriate word) for/of the thing? No matter what happens to us here on earth, we have made a sign (and not a bad one) for the rest of the universe to see, if they can. Yeah, it’s got a stupid looking picture on it, and has technology that is WAY outdated even to us, but regardless of how badly we may screw up here, humanity has a legacy.

In 2 million years time Pioneer 10 happens to enter orbit of the only inhabited planet in the system. Atmospheric friction renders the probe into the shape of a vertical black slab, which is discovered by a troupe of curious apes lobbing bones…

They did, but Bruce Willis blew it up. It was a bit dusty by the time it got here, but nobody had vacuumed for a while. ALTERNATE JOKE: Kids! Clean up your room, or eventually it has to be done with nuclear weapons!

Chasing the probe, realizing that they left a baby in there, and that the colour of our sun was wrong and the kid wouldn’t be super.

Or more tragic, the Aldebarans launched their Pioneer at the same time we launched ours and they will collide at the halfway point in 1 million years. :confused:

Or perhaps when we achieve faster propulsion systems, we’ll just catch up to it and bring it home. Hopefully Ricardo Montalban won’t be inside.

I bet it last a long time.
I got a coupla Pioneer speakers I’ve had since college.

When come back, bring Pioneer.

I can’t believe I’m the first to post that.