The space probe OSIRIS-REx recorded these pictures of Bennus South Pole on January 17th.
NASA / Goddard / University of Arizona / Lockheed Martin
NASA's OSIRIS REx mission orbits an asteroid closer than any other spacecraft ever orbits a body ̵
The spacecraft entered orbit around the asteroid named Bennu on December 31 after the team carefully mapped the object to create a safe path for the spacecraft. That was a challenge, because Bennu is the smallest space rock ever to be orbited.
But the dangerous maneuver was worth it. OSIRIS-REx circles only 1.6 kilometers over Bennu's surface and offers its cameras an incredible view of the rocky surface of the asteroid. The scientists believe that the robust form is the result of Bennu, which has formed from a loosely mixed rubble. [The Greatest Asteroid Encounters of All Time!]
The two images shown here were taken by an instrument called NavCam, the main camera used by the team to control the spacecraft. The photos from January 17 show the South Pole of Bennu.
Another recently released image of Bennu's South Pole, taken while the spacecraft was preparing for orbit, was taken at a distance of about 12 km. However, scientists still get a detailed overview of the surface topography.
This photo was taken with another camera on the spacecraft called MapCam. This is one of the scientific instruments of the probe and not a dedicated navigation camera. Its main purpose is to photograph the asteroid in color and help the team choose where to collect a sample to take home for analysis.
The sampling process will not begin until mid-2020, after the team has had plenty of time to study Bennu from all angles and make an informed decision on where to collect the sample, in part through detailed observations of the surface stones that disrupt the samplers could.