Using its multipurpose camera designed at the UA, NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft spied its target asteroid for the first time from about 1.4 million miles away. The mission is well on track, and the spacecraft is expected to reach the asteroid Bennu in December.
For this animation, OSIRIS-REx image scientists combined five exposures of asteroid
Bennu taken by the spacecraft’s PolyCam camera. At this distance, almost six times of
that between the Earth and the moon, Bennu is just a point source, indistinguishable
from a star other than the way it moves against the star field in the background. This
will change dramatically once the spacecraft comes closer and rendezvous with the
asteroid in December. (Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)
After an almost two-year journey through space, NASA's asteroid sampling spacecraft, OSIRIS-REx, caught its first glimpse of asteroid Bennu last week and began the final approach toward its target. On Aug. 17, the spacecraft's PolyCam camera obtained the image from a distance of 1.4 million miles.
Led by the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, OSIRIS-REx is NASA's first mission to visit a near-Earth asteroid, survey the surface, collect a sample and deliver it safely back to Earth. The spacecraft has traveled approximately 1.1 billion miles since its Sept. 8, 2016 launch, and is scheduled to arrive at Bennu on Dec. 3. ...
To boost itself onto Bennu's orbital plane, OSIRIS-REx performed a slingshot maneuver, or gravity assist, around Earth 11 months ago. The craft is now zipping along at almost 32,000 mph relative to Earth, while catching up with Bennu at a little over 1,200 mph relative to the asteroid. The image was acquired using PolyCam, one of three cameras, all developed at the UA, that together comprise the OSIRIS-REx Camera Suite, OCAMS for short.
Polycam, so named because it is poly-functional, has two jobs: one as a long-range acquisition camera, and the second as a reconnaissance camera once the spacecraft gets close to Bennu. Obtaining the first visual of its target asteroid has been meticulously planned since the early development of the mission. ...