Space: The Upstaging of Halley's Armada

A U.S. Spacecraft Makes the First Encounter with a Comet

A funny thing happened on the way to Halley's comet last week. As an armada of Soviet, Japanese and European space probes hurtled through the cosmos toward their heralded meetings with the fabled comet next March, they were upstaged by a modest and almost archaic Ameri can spacecraft. The International Cometary Explorer whipped through the tail of an obscure apparition called Giacobini-Zinner, thereby becoming the first man-made object to encounter a comet.

Easily weathering the risky rendezvous, the half-ton craft transmitted a stream of valuable and sometimes surprising data about the 465,000-mile-long cometary tail to jubilant scientists tuned in at NASA's...

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