Pioneers 10 and 11 courses inexplicably varying at Kuiper Belt

15 September 2004

Something weird is happening out on the boundary of our solar system, an area called the Kuiper Belt, where NASA space probes Pioneers 10 and 11 are presently located.

Both deep space probes, launched over thirty years ago, traversed the inner region of the solar system almost exactly according to plan.

Since passing beyond the orbit of Pluto though, events have taken an unexpected turn: both probes appear to be inexplicably deviating from their projected courses.

And no one can work out why. Some scientists think long held ideas on the effects of gravity over extended distances may be need to be re-thought. Others say that both probes may be leaking gases, which is contributing to the change in their trajectories.

This mystery has led to calls for a new deep space mission to see what’s happening out at the Kuiper.

By fitting a Pioneer follow-up probe with new measuring equipment, navigational device and communications gear, it should be possible to discover if the probes are in the grip of a new force of nature.

A new force of nature? Perhaps Star Wars director George Lucas’ far, far, away galaxy may not be all that distant after all…

Originally published Wednesday 15 September 2004.


, ,