NASA's Asteroid Probe OSIRIS-REx has flown through space for many months to hit its target, a large space rock called Bennu. The mission of the spacecraft will be done in the next few years, but on arrival in Bennu we finally have a very close shot of the rock. And boy, is it dirty.
One of the interesting things about asteroids is that they do not look like you would imagine. Science fiction has taught us that asteroids are a big piece of bumpy rock, but the reality is different. As you can clearly see from the pictures, Bennu is a big, dust-strewn dust.
Knowing what the asteroid's surface looks like is of paramount importance to the entire OSIRIS REx mission, as the spacecraft must select a location to finally land. After about a year of surveying, the machine will sit on the asteroid and grab a sample from its surface before flying back to Earth, where scientists can examine the material more closely.
The images of Bennu's surface reflect the returned images of the Japanese probe Hayabusa-2, which traveled to another asteroid called Ryugu and set it on its surface. The team that handled the probe quickly realized how incredibly bumpy and rough the surface of the asteroid was, and it seems Bennu is the same.
Asteroids like these have the potential to tell us much about the history of our asteroid solar system as well as the material from which planets like Earth originally formed. Scientists are always eager to study new planets and distant worlds, but it could be that much smaller objects like Bennu can tell us even more about where we all started.