When the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft reached its destination, the asteroid Bennu, the object changed from a fuzzy point to an incredibly bumpy world full of sharp contrasts. But these pictures do not produce themselves.
A core imaging team of half a dozen employees and staff from around the world will need the three OSIRIS-REx cameras: the black and white PolyCam and the MapCam color, which have already captured images of their new world SamCam, the sampling arm of the Space probe will help in the choice of the target.
Space.com teamed up with Dathon Golish, a member of the imaging team, at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union earlier this month in Washington, DC. Talk about the pictures OSIRIS-REx has taken so far and what we can expect next [OSIRIS-REx: NASA̵
(He said that if he had to choose a favorite from the camera crew, he would choose SamCam, "the little baby of the family," as it is often overlooked.) This interview was edited for a long time and clarity ,
Space.com: What was the funniest part of the mission so far?
Dathon Golish: Honestly, the first really high-resolution images were taken in early December. They could have really taken my breath away. … This dramatic lighting is the highest resolution we will have until February. It was, woo – it was pretty cool.
Space.com: Can you talk about what these pictures are was to work with so far?
Golish: So far it has been interesting. It was cool to share the mission as we moved from the astronomical phrase to the resolved phase where Bennu is a real thing right in front of us. … When Bennu switched from that small, blurry spot to that beautiful thing in the sky, it was interesting. A little challenging, just a bit to understand how to deal with this transition – not fundamentally difficult, you just have to think about the pictures a little bit differently.
And when [Bennu] more and more was solved and more and more were there More specifically, the cameras really – I can not say that I'm impressed because I was part of the team and that seems to be complacent – but I was really happy how they developed. You have already taken some amazing pictures, and I can only imagine that it will get better.
Space.com: Are there any particular angles or features that you enjoy photographing?
Golish: We have already seen some interesting points: the big boulders on Bennu, the dark spots on Bennu and the bright spots on Bennu. There are very interesting variations. … Just seeing this stuff, one, first-hand and personal, and two, in color, will be interesting.
In recent months, Bennu has been getting closer as I get closer. Now that I am here, I fly around the asteroid and study it in detail. All the data I collect helps my team choose a place for the year 2020. #WelcomeToBennu Details: https://t.co/9pYBuYxA8X pic.twitter.com/CnzVwwRz5n [NASA(OSIRISREx) December 3, 2018
Space.com: For people who do not understand what's needed to create these images, what would you wish for when they're over Your job and the team would know
Golish: It may not come as a surprise, but only the enormous amount of people and talent and thoughtfulness involved in such a process. At the end of the day, it's a 1 megapixel image, but there's a lot of thought going into this whole process – from the mission design [to] where the cameras were designed to meet the mission's mission fulfill and implement these cameras [and]. The people who plan the mission navigate the spaceship. And then, at the end of this very long process, the images come to people like me, who turn them into hopefully even more interesting images that highlight the kind of information we find interesting to Bennu.
This is a tremendously long chain, and it's easy to turn it into a picture that's very cool and very funny, and you can say, "Wow!" But before that comes a lot. I hope people appreciate [that] because the people who move through this chain may not end up standing next to the picture, but they are just as important to this process. So it's fun to acknowledge all these steps. [In the Clean Room: Up-Close Look at NASA’s OSIRIS-REx]
Space.com: Will the time between now and orbital use on December 31 be a tiring time for you?
Golish: Focused on the navigation team. They want to understand how they can safely navigate around this body so they can get into orbit. Technically, this is a time when we step back a little. We'll hopefully get some nice color images [the second week of December] – as part of their navigation campaign we were able to sneak up some color images – and that's the focus for the next month or so. They'll be our best color images by March, so let's see what interesting things we can see. And in the meantime, we're getting ready for the end of February, our big imaging campaign. … We want to be as good as possible for these six months. It's going to be a lot of intense work.
Space.com: Are there any key projects or challenges that you want to tackle by then?
Golish: ] Honestly, things have worked very well so far. You're always waiting for unexpected things to appear in your process or in the data or whatever, and the fact that everything has gone so smoothly so far is once again a testament to all the people who worked on everything up to that point have point. … Maybe there is a hiccup here or there, but this process is going pretty much as we expected, which is a great relief. We are also grateful for that, because we only get so much faster to the interesting things. We are not stopped too much by these details. We see some of these results that we have been waiting for, in my case five years, in some cases 10, 15 years.