Twenty-five years ago today — July 2, 1985 — the European Space Agency launched the Giotto spacecraft on an Ariane-1 booster out of French Guiana.
Giotto was the ESA’s first deep space mission, launched to study Comet Halley (which I grew up calling Halley’s Comet, but somewhere along the line the naming convention seems to have changed).
(Image of Comet Halley from Giotto. ESA image from NASA’s National Space Science Data Center.)
Giotto rendezvoused with Comet Halley in March 1986 and passed within 600 km (c. 370 mi) of the comet’s nucleus. The spacecraft was not expected to survive its encounter, and cometary dust did damage it, but the probe and most of its instruments continued to function. As a result, the ESA extended the Giotto mission to rendezvous with comet Grigg-Skjellerup, making Giotto the first spacecraft to rendezvous with two comets.
More images from the Giotto mission are available on this ESA page.by