Image of Giotto spacecraft
The Giotto spacecraft, named after Italian painter, Giotto di Bondone, who had included Halley's comet in his 1304 painting of Bethlehem, was launched on July 2, 1985. Its mission was to fly by Halley's comet and send back the first pictures of a comet's nucleus and information on its composition.
Giotto's encounter with Halley came on Mar. 13, 1986 at a distance of 596 km (370 miles). This was the closest approach of all six spacecrafts which visited the comet that year, including Sakigake and Suisei. Giotto's dust shield protected it from dust impacts at 70 km/hour, allowing its instruments to successfully carry out most of their studies.
After four years in hibernation, Giotto was given new instructions and directed toward comet Grigg-Skjellerup. It arrived on July 10, 1992, coming within 200 km of the comet.
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