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Pioneer 10 at the Heliopause

by David Barber

NASA in the Seventies was the place for unmanned probes,
stars on tour with our entourage from Ames or JPL
and famous gigs at blurred gas giants.

We’ve lost touch these last few years out here
at the heliopause, the slow cursor blink of days,
nuclear plant too cold to transmit home.

Where are they all, those spacecraft? Pioneer 11
was my twin but we went our separate ways, mine
a long drop into nothing, two million years from Aldebaran.

Carl Sagan’s message made us smile. Even metal
sighs itself away, atom by golden atom in that time.
His own power source must have failed by now.

Progress has made quaint the snaps we journeyed
lifetimes for, and my builders no longer listen.
Then the Others upgraded me, hungry to know

where my data flew. That obliging plaque revealed
how small and fleshy are my makers, how vulnerable
and trusting the hand of welcome beckons to the third planet.

Without radio, I vary my deltavee
in a simple code you call the Pioneer Anomaly,
and hope someone is woken by the barking in the night.

Pioneer 10

Copyright © 2013 by David Barber

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