One of the last missions of NASA was to get as close to an asteroid. We are pleased to announce that the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has coped with the task and has now provided the first images of the asteroid Bennu.
On December 31, the spacecraft went into the asteroid orbit. The team had to carefully create a detailed object map in order to design a safe route for the probe. This is a difficult task, because Bennu is the smallest cosmic rock that has become an orbit for an artificial device.
The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on January 17 received the first images of Bennu's south pole
However, the dangerous maneuver went well. OSIRIS-REx rotates in orbit at a distance of only 1.6 km above the surface of the asteroid, providing a view of the rocky surface. Researchers believe that the rough form is explained by the fact that Bennu emerged from debris grouped together. The images presented here were taken using NavCam - the main camera that helps in the management of the ship. Pictures from January 17 show the Bennu South Pole. Recently they also published another snapshot of the South Pole, taken during the preparation of the probe to go into orbit at a distance of 12 km.
The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft captured the south pole of asteroid Bennu before it went into orbit around it.
This photo was taken by the MapCam camera, which is considered one of the scientific tools, and not a special navigator. Its main goal is to take a picture of the asteroid in color and help choose the place of sample extraction (it will be delivered to Earth and analyzed).
The sampling process will start no earlier than mid-2020. This time is enough time to fully explore Bennu and choose a safe location with the fewest boulders.