NASA has released a detailed image. This concerns the surface of asteroid Bennu, a near-Earth object that has been orbited by one of their spacecraft.
The image was taken on June 13 during the probe’s record-breaking orbit around the asteroid.
OSIRIS-REx has been maneuvered into an orbit of just 680 meters from the asteroid that is traveling around 90 million miles from our planet. This close maneuver was done due to small objects and dust that were released from the asteroid surface — safety concerns required NASA to shift orbit to maintain system integrity and functionality.
Designated Orbit B, this is the closest orbit of any satellite around a space object. Beating the previous record, that was also set by itself at 1.3 kilometers or 0.8 miles. The satellite’s position gives it a clear vision of the asteroid, which is half covered in sunlight with the other half in darkness. Due to such a close orbit, any detail can be observed on the surface, up to a half meter range. The asteroid is one of the smallest objects of interest to be orbited by a craft in space.
NASA OSIRIS-REx Released Up Close Image of Asteroid Bennu
A 7-year mission was devised to study the asteroid. Lockheed built the probe in 2016 as per NASA specifications to fulfill the following mission parameters. The entire asteroid Bennu will be mapped using onboard instruments.
A suitable location will be selected for sample collection. This location needs to be within mission safety parameters. The probe needs to avoid dangerous, uneven terrain as it needs to stay upright to deploy its sample arm. Mid-2020 will be the time when the sample is collected and brought back to Earth by the satellite in late 2023.
Scientists think that the asteroid was formed in the very distant past. They hope the sample they collect will give them insight into the formation of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago.