On This Day in Space! Sept. 11, 1985: International Cometary Explorer completes 1st comet flyby

On Sept. 11, 1985, the International Cometary Explorer, or “ICE” became the first spacecraft to fly by a comet. 

NASA’s Vintage ISEE-3 ICE Spacecraft in Pictures

Originally launched as the International Sun-Earth Explorer-3 in 1978, ICE was one of three spacecraft built for the International Sun-Earth Explorer (ISEE) program, a joint effort by NASA, the European Space Research Organization and the European Space Agency.

International Comet Explorer (ICE) headed for its encounter with Comet Giacobini-Zinner.

(Image credit: NASA)

Best Close Encounters of the Comet Kind

The program’s purpose was to study space weather, or the interaction between the Earth’s magnetic field and the solar wind. After completing its original mission, the spacecraft did a maneuver to steer it toward Comet Giacobini-Zinner. It flew straight through the comet’s plasma tail, but it didn’t stop there! Six months later, it flew by Halley’s Comet, too.

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Catch up on our entire “On This Day In Space” series on YouTube with this playlist. 

On This Day in Space Archive!

Still not enough space? Don’t forget to check out our Space Image of the Day, and on the weekends our Best Space Photos and Top Space News Stories of the week. 

Email Hanneke Weitering at hweitering@space.com or follow her @hannekescience. Follow us @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. 

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Hanneke Weitering

Hanneke Weitering is an editor at Space.com with 10 years of experience in science journalism. She has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the Space.com team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time Hanneke likes to explore the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos. 

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