Twenty years ago, in the night between 13 and 14 March 1986, ESA’s Giotto spacecraft encountered Comet Halley. It was ESA’s first deep space mission, and part of an ambitious international effort to solve the riddles surrounding this mysterious object.
The adventure began when Giotto was launched by an Ariane 1 rocket (flight V14) on 2 July 1985. After three revolutions around the Earth, the on-board motor was fired to inject it into an interplanetary orbit.
After a cruise of eight months and almost 150 million kilometres, the spacecraft’s instruments first detected hydrogen ions from Halley at a distance of 7.8 million kilometres from the comet on 12 March 1986.
Gerhard Schwehm | alfa
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