Author Topic: Oldest functioning space probes  (Read 2625 times)

Offline nicp

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Oldest functioning space probes
« on: 04/22/2024 12:19 pm »
Voyager 2 is usually considered the oldest functioning space probe.
However, I recall Pioneer 6 was contacted in 2000 (see Wikipedia here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pioneer_6,_7,_8,_and_9 )

That article states "there has been no contact since December 8, 2000. At this time Pioneer 6 had operated for 12,758 days, making it the oldest operating space probe until it was surpassed by Voyager 2 on August 13, 2012. It is also believed that contact is still possible with Pioneer 7 and 8; only Pioneer 9 is definitely not working."

Which begs the question - are there other probes out there that still function if only they were contacted?
I understand why they aren't - newer and shinier probes are out there and tracking is an expensive and limited resource.
But I'd love to know if one of the old Mariners or probes of similar age still function.

EDIT: Lose the Wikipedia tags.
« Last Edit: 04/22/2024 12:21 pm by nicp »
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Offline edzieba

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Re: Oldest functioning space probes
« Reply #1 on: 04/22/2024 03:02 pm »
If you expand to include Earth-orbit as well as deep-space craft, then Transit 5B-5 is probably the oldest functioning spacecraft (launched in 1965), and will still wake up and start transmitting when its solar arrays are illuminated.

Offline Emmettvonbrown

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Re: Oldest functioning space probes
« Reply #2 on: 04/22/2024 03:30 pm »
Outside the unsinkable Voyagers, present oldest functioning probe must be that one no ? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2001_Mars_Odyssey

Can't think about a Mercure / Venus / Gas giants mission older than Mars Odyssey.

But there are certainly much older spacecraft closer from Earth, including the SEL libration points (SEL-1 & SEL-2).


« Last Edit: 04/22/2024 03:31 pm by Emmettvonbrown »

Offline nicp

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Re: Oldest functioning space probes
« Reply #3 on: 04/22/2024 03:32 pm »
Outside the unsinkable Voyagers, present oldest functioning probe must be that one no ? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2001_Mars_Odyssey

Can't think about a Mercure / Venus / Gas giants mission older than Mars Odyssey.

But there are certainly much older spacecraft closer from Earth, including the SEL libration points (SEL-1 & SEL-2).



Isn't SOHO older than Mars Odyssey? Yep. 2nd December 1995.
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Offline Emmettvonbrown

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Re: Oldest functioning space probes
« Reply #4 on: 04/22/2024 06:16 pm »
Outside the unsinkable Voyagers, present oldest functioning probe must be that one no ? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2001_Mars_Odyssey

Can't think about a Mercure / Venus / Gas giants mission older than Mars Odyssey.

But there are certainly much older spacecraft closer from Earth, including the SEL libration points (SEL-1 & SEL-2).



Isn't SOHO older than Mars Odyssey? Yep. 2nd December 1995.

And so it is the oldest SEL-1 / SEL-2 mission, still working ?  With XMM Newton (1997), they are (perhaps) the oldest ESA science missions still active.

Online Blackstar

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Re: Oldest functioning space probes
« Reply #5 on: 04/22/2024 08:55 pm »
What is the definition of a "probe"? I assume the OP means planetary spacecraft. But if we include things in Earth orbit, this becomes a different conversation.

Offline nicp

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Re: Oldest functioning space probes
« Reply #6 on: 04/22/2024 09:35 pm »
What is the definition of a "probe"? I assume the OP means planetary spacecraft. But if we include things in Earth orbit, this becomes a different conversation.
I actually meant any unmanned machine that is out there - I avoided the term 'spacecraft' because that, to me potentially implies a crew.
I mentioned SOHO, which is at the Earth-Sun L1 point, so not exactly in Solar orbit.
But why not? Anything even in Earth orbit that is old old old has gotta be interesting.

EDIT: There is Vanguard 1, not the one that embarressingly blew up. It's up there, but certainly does not function. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanguard_1 (also Prospero from my own UK - dead?)
« Last Edit: 04/22/2024 09:40 pm by nicp »
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Offline laszlo

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Re: Oldest functioning space probes
« Reply #7 on: 04/22/2024 10:07 pm »
EDIT: There is Vanguard 1, not the one that embarressingly blew up. It's up there, but certainly does not function. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanguard_1 (also Prospero from my own UK - dead?)

Its electronics may be dead, but as an orbiting body of known composition and construction it is providing valuable orbital dynamic and atmospheric interaction data, so it is actually still providing scientific data and carrying out its secondary mission objectives. That's good enough for me to call it functional and the winner of the title.

Offline LittleBird

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Re: Oldest functioning space probes
« Reply #8 on: 04/23/2024 04:18 pm »
I'd be curious about what the oldest living GEO or near GEO satellite might be. I seem to recall reading that the RTG powered LES 8 and 9  were extremely long lived ?

Offline Nomadd

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Re: Oldest functioning space probes
« Reply #9 on: 04/23/2024 04:37 pm »
EDIT: There is Vanguard 1, not the one that embarressingly blew up. It's up there, but certainly does not function. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanguard_1 (also Prospero from my own UK - dead?)

Its electronics may be dead, but as an orbiting body of known composition and construction it is providing valuable orbital dynamic and atmospheric interaction data, so it is actually still providing scientific data and carrying out its secondary mission objectives. That's good enough for me to call it functional and the winner of the title.
By that definition, you could call a rock a functioning spacecraft.
Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who couldn't hear the music.

Online YetAnotherLurker

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Re: Oldest functioning space probes
« Reply #10 on: 04/23/2024 06:04 pm »
I'd be curious about what the oldest living GEO or near GEO satellite might be. I seem to recall reading that the RTG powered LES 8 and 9  were extremely long lived ?

Perhaps not the current answer, but GOES-3 was probably a contender prior to its controlled retirement in 2016 with a 38 year mission lifetime.

Offline Michel Van

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Re: Oldest functioning space probes
« Reply #11 on: 04/23/2024 07:51 pm »
NASA had last contact with Pioneer 11 on November 24, 1995.
Radio communications were lost with Pioneer 10 on January 23, 2003, because of the failure of its radio transmitter.

Pioneer 6 had on December 8, 2000 to celebrate 35 years of continuous operation since launch.
also Pioneer 7 and 8

Here are contradictory information, either they don't work anymore,
or NASA is unable to communicate with Pioneer 6/7/8 do there Analog hardware

Offline Michel Van

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Re: Oldest functioning space probes
« Reply #12 on: 04/29/2024 09:28 pm »


Offline LittleBird

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Re: Oldest functioning space probes
« Reply #14 on: 04/30/2024 02:31 pm »
https://www.popularmechanics.com/space/satellites/a32293223/les-5-satellite/   :o :o

So to modify an already modified joke, after the end of the world the only survivors will be cockroaches, Keith Richards, and LES 5 ... ;-)

Offline Emmettvonbrown

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Re: Oldest functioning space probes
« Reply #15 on: 04/30/2024 06:06 pm »
1-Johnny Depp took inspiration from Keith Richards for Jack Sparrow
2-Keith Richards learned about it and liked it
3-Keith Richard ended playing Jack father in the third movie, and they looked like clones

As for (chemical) apocalypse survivors - Aerosmith and FleetwoodMac respective singers should be added. The latter once calculated he had sniffed 5 miles of coke.

Back to oldest functionning spacecraft...   ;D


Offline laszlo

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Re: Oldest functioning space probes
« Reply #16 on: 05/01/2024 01:13 pm »
EDIT: There is Vanguard 1, not the one that embarressingly blew up. It's up there, but certainly does not function. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanguard_1 (also Prospero from my own UK - dead?)

Its electronics may be dead, but as an orbiting body of known composition and construction it is providing valuable orbital dynamic and atmospheric interaction data, so it is actually still providing scientific data and carrying out its secondary mission objectives. That's good enough for me to call it functional and the winner of the title.
By that definition, you could call a rock a functioning spacecraft.

As long as you know its composition and construction and deliberately launched it, you're right. The Starlette geodetic satellite is basically a rock (uranium) surrounded by laser reflectors so you're definitely onto something here.

Tags: pioneer voyager 
 

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