Pioneer Program Background

The Pioneer
program is a series of United States unmanned space missions that were designed
for planetary exploration. There were a number of such missions in the program,
but the most notable were Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11, which explored the outer
planets and left the solar system. Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 carry a golden
plaque, depicting a man and a woman and information about the origin and the
creators of the probes, should any extraterrestrials find them someday.

Early Able Tests

earliest missions were attempts to achieve Earth’s escape velocity, simply to
show it was feasible and study the Moon. This included the first launch by NASA
which was formed from the old NACA. These missions were carried out by the US
Air Force and Army.

Able Test Summary

  • Pioneer
    0 (Thor-Able 1, Pioneer) – Lunar orbiter, destroyed (Thor failure
    77 seconds after launch) August 17, 1958
  • Pioneer
    1 (Thor-Able 2, Pioneer I) – Lunar orbiter, missed Moon (third stage
    partial failure) October 11, 1958
  • Pioneer
    2 (Thor-Able 3, Pioneer II) – Lunar orbiter, reentry (third stage failure)
    November 8, 1958
  • Pioneer
    P-1 (Atlas-Able 4A, Pioneer W), probe lost September 24, 1959
  • Pioneer
    P-3 (Atlas-Able 4, Atlas-Able 4B, Pioneer X) – Lunar probe, lost in
    launcher failure November 26, 1959
  • Pioneer
    5 (Pioneer P-2, Thor-Able 4, Pioneer V) – interplanetary space between
    Earth and Venus, launched March 11, 1960[2]
  • Pioneer
    P-30 (Atlas-Able 5A, Pioneer Y) – Lunar probe, failed to achieve lunar
    orbit September 25, 1960
  • Pioneer
    P-31 (Atlas-Able 5B, Pioneer Z) – Lunar probe, lost in upper stage failure
    December 15, 1960

Declassified Documents

Test Objectives – Project Able-3, Earth Satellite, 7 July 1959
[135 Pages,
18.7MB] – The Detailed Test Objectives and flight test plans for Project Able-
3, earth satellite vehicle for testing the Able-4 (deep space probe
configuration and gathering scientific information of propagation experiments
and space environment, are contained within this document. Project Able-3 will
be conducted as a part of the program directed by the National Aeronautics
and Space Administration (NASA) and is a joint project representing the
contributions of a number of cooperating agencies.

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