Bennu surface photo — NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, which is currently positioned around the tiny 101955 Bennu asteroid, has transmitted its closet photo ever of the surface of the asteroid.
NASA has already published photos of OSIRIS-REx taken with the navigation camera NavCam 1 on January 17, 2019 from a distance of approximately 1.6 kilometers from the surface. Now, according to The Verge, NASA has published a photo taken on June 13 from a circular orbit of only 690 meters above Bennu, which is described as the closest a spacecraft has orbited a body in the Solar System.
This image of the asteroid Bennu was captured on June 13, 2019, shortly after NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft executed its second orbital insertion maneuver. From the point of view of the orbiting spacecraft, half of Bennu is illuminated by the sun and half is in shadow. The largest rock of Bennu can also be seen protruding from the southern hemisphere. The image was taken from a distance of 690 meters above the surface of the asteroid by NavCam 1, one of the three navigation cameras that make up the TAGCAMS suite (the Touch-and-Go camera system) of the spacecraft. At this distance, details as small as 0.5 meters in width can be resolved in the center of the image.
OSIRIS-REx was launched in 2016 and arrived in Bennu in December 2018. It has five data collection instruments and is destined to carry out NASA’s first mission with samples of an asteroid.
OSIRIS-REx had already made history: Bennu is around 520 meters in diameter, which makes it the smallest object ever orbited by a spaceship. Earlier this year, NASA scientists determined that Bennu’s surface is shedding material, and more irregular than previously thought, making it even harder to try to collect samples.
According to mission scientists, the spacecraft will continue in its current orbit until mid-August, during which it will use instruments such as the OSIRIS-REx laser altimeter (OLA) to create a complete terrain map, PolyCam to “form an image mosaic. high-resolution global “and the OSIRIS-REx thermal emission spectrometer (OTES) and the REgolith X-ray imaging spectrometer (REXIS) to” produce global maps in the infrared and X-ray bands “. This is necessary to select the best landing site to minimize the chances of something going wrong.
After that, OSIRIS-REx will ascend to a higher orbit of about 1.3 km. The collection of samples using an instrument called TAGSAM is scheduled for the summer of 2020, while the return to Earth is scheduled for 2023.
Japan’s similar mission, Hayabusa2, successfully collected samples from the asteroid Ryugu using a tantalum bullet in February 2019, and then made a hole in it using an explosive device for another sample test. However, that second race has not yet taken place and it has a limited calendar before Ryugu gets too close to the Sun and the mission is not viable. [NASA / Goddard / University of Arizona / Lockheed Martin]