NASA's OSIRIS-REx space probe for asteroid sampling has just highlighted its closest image, that of Bennu, the rock of space in which it has been flying since the end of the year. last. The high resolution image highlights the very rocky surface of the object and even highlights a very large rock on its southern half.
OSIRIS-REx took this picture close on June 13, just after the spacecraft had been in orbit around Bennu for the second time. The vehicle entered Bennu's orbit on December 31, 2018, flying about 1.5 km from the surface of the asteroid. From this trajectory, OSIRIS-REx mapped Bennu's surface to the smallest detail and also observed interesting things from this point of view, including rocks vomiting from Bennu's surface.
OSIRIS-REx is still mapping Bennu and, last week, his mission team has further brought the spacecraft closer to the asteroid. OSIRIS-REx is now in orbit less than 0.6 km from the Bennu surface, which is below the height of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. It is the closest orbit ever reached by a spaceship around another space object. And this makes the photo that OSIRIS-REx captured over the nearest image ever taken of an orbiting spacecraft.
OSIRIS-REx will remain in orbit until the second week of August and will continue to determine which sites would be best to take a sample next year. This will be difficult, however, since OSIRIS-REx has discovered that Bennu is a particularly rocky place. The mission team wants the spacecraft sampling site to be free of debris and rocks in order to facilitate the collection of materials. Hopefully this tighter orbit will allow OSIRIS-REx to have an even better view of Bennu, helping scientists find the best place for sample collection by the summer of 2020.