ESA Science & Technology - Publication Archive
Almost exactly twenty years ago, on 14 March 1986, ESA's Giotto spacecraft made its historic fly-by of comet Halley at a distance of about 596 km. This close encounter represented a major milestone for planetary science in general, but also gave an important boost to the European planetary-science community that is still having an impact today. Besides its scientific importance, it was also the first big mission-related media event for ESA. The 'Night of the Comet' at ESOC in Darmstadt (D) was relayed by Eurovision, with 56 TV stations from 37 countries reporting the encounter live, attracting a television audience of more than 1.5 billion. The images sent back by Giotto's Halley Multicolour Camera radically transformed everyone's ideas about what the nucleus of a comet really looked like.
Published: 15 February 2006