Unmanned Spaceflight

Giotto comet chaser launched

GiottoThe European Space Agency launches the unmanned Giotto space probe, designed to rendezvous with and observe Halley’s Comet during the comet’s pass through the inner solar system in 1986. The first-ever ESA mission aiming for a target beyond Earth orbit, Giotto is based loosely on the design of ESA’s GEOS satellites, with thick aluminum and Kevlar shielding to help the probe survive potential impacts with cometary matter as it closes in on Halley’s nucleus. Giotto is the first spacecraft ever to use Earth itself for a gravity assist maneuver (which later becomes standard practice with such space vehicles as Galileo, Messenger and Juno). It will go on to become the first vehicle to visit a comet.