NASA’s first asteroid-sampling mission OSIRIS-REx has captured an incredible Picture of the Earth, the media reported.
The image was recorded on December 19, 2018, days earlier Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) went into orbit around Bennu on New Year’s Eve, the Daily Mail reported.
Bennu is the tiniest ever celestial figure to be orbited by a spacecraft.
The picture shows the asteroid Bennu, top right, about 43 kilometres in the spacecraft, and the Earth and moon, bottom left, over 110 million kilometres off.
The tiny asteroid – barely 500 meters – appears as a large glowing blob in the long-exposure photo released last week, the report said.
Launched from Florida in 2016, OSIRIS-REx spacecraft attained Bennu on December 3, 2018 after travelling over one billion miles through space. The spacecraft will spend almost annually surveying the space rock .
On January 1, 2019, the spacecraft, 110 million kilometres off, carried out one, eight-second burn off of its thrusters. It will circle Bennu about 1.75 kilometres from its center, closer than any other spacecraft has come to its celestial object of research.
Previously, the closest orbit of a planetary body was in May 2016, when the Rosetta spacecraft orbited approximately seven kilometres in the middle of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
The spacecraft is scheduled to orbit Bennu through mid-February at a leisurely 62 hours each orbit.
The OSIRIS-REx staff will resume science operations in late February.
At that stage, the spacecraft will perform a series of close flybys of Bennu for several months to take high-resolution pictures of every square inch of the asteroid to help select a sampling site.
The OSIRIS-REx assignment is scheduled to deliver the sample to Earth in September 2023.