Two years after launching from Florida, a NASA spacecraft OSIRIS-REx has snapped its first, blurry picture of the cosmic body. This asteroid-sampling spacecraft snapped its closest picture of Bennu. Bennu is about the size of a small mountain, about 500 yards (meters) in diameter. The deep-space rock is been roaming around the in the space, since the end of last year.
This spacecraft was designed to circle Bennu and collect the sample of space dust that could reveal clues to the start of life in the solar system. The highlights of high-resolution image taken by the spacecraft showcases a very large boulder on its southern half and its rocky surface.
On June 13th, the spacecraft inserted itself into orbit around Bennu for the second time and took this up-close picture. This is not the first time NASA snapped Bennu, but on on August 17, the first images of Bennu were taken at a distance of 1.4 million miles (2.3 million kilometers) from the $800 million spacecraft. However, OSIRIS-REx, first got into Bennu’s orbit on December 31st, 2018 it flying about a mile away from the asteroid’s surface. Bennu’s surface was mapped by the vehicle in intricate detail from that path. It also observed some interesting things from this point which also includes rocks spewing from Bennu’s surface. OSIRIS-REx principal investigator,Dante Lauretta, at the University of Arizona, Tucson said:
This is the closest we have even been to Bennu
This is significant in that we are now in the vicinity of the asteroid, closer than we have ever been even during the close approaches of the asteroid to the Earth.”
Some 500,000 asteroids in the solar system, Bennu was chosen from them because it orbits close to Earth’s path around the sun. It is one of the oldest asteroids known to NASA and it has the perfect right size for scientific study.
OSIRIS-REx mission team, last week, negotiated the spacecraft even closer to the asteroid, as spacecraft is still mapping Bennu. OSIRIS-REx is orbiting within just 0.4 miles of Bennu’s surface. According to the NASA, this is the closest orbit that any spacecraft has ever achieved around another space object. OSIRIS-REx will reach out with a robotic arm to Bennu’s surface, it will return the sample it collects to Earth in 2023. Until the second week of August, OSIRIS-REx will stay in its tight orbit and will figure out which sites would be best for grabbing a sample. As, Bennu is a particularly rocky place it will difficult to collect a sample.
According to the astronomers Bennu has a slight risk, a one in 2,700 chance, of colliding with Earth in 2135. Japan and Europe has also managed to visit an asteroid and attempt a sample return, as Europe has also managed to land on a comet. So, OSIRIS-REx mission is not the first.
Hopefully, OSIRIS-REx will get an even better view of Bennu. It will help scientists to figure out the best place for a sample grab by summer of 2020.