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The NASA spacecraft picks up a detailed asteroid image from its closest orbit to date



The NASA spacecraft OSIRIS-REx asteroid scan has just captured its most accurate image of Bennu, the space rock it has been floating in since the end of last year. The high-resolution image highlights the very rocky surface of the object and even shows a very large boulder in its southern half.

OSIRIS-REx made this close-up the other time on June 13, just after the spaceship had entered orbit around Bennu. The vehicle entered Bennus orbit for the first time on December 31, 2018 and flew about one mile from the surface of the asteroid. From this path, OSIRIS-REx mapped the surface of Bennu down to the smallest detail and also observed some interesting things from that point of view, including rocks that came from the surface of Bennu.

OSIRIS-REx still maps Bennu, and last week its mission team got the spacecraft even closer to the asteroid. Now OSIRIS-REx is orbiting just 0.6 km from Bennu's surface, which is less than the height of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. This is the closest orbit a spaceship has ever made to another space object. And so the picture taken by OSIRIS-REx is the most similar picture ever taken of a circulating spacecraft.

OSIRIS-REx will remain in its tight orbit until the second week of August, and will continue to identify which locations are best suited for a sample trial next year. However, it becomes difficult as OSIRIS-REx has determined that Bennu is a particularly rocky place. The mission team wants the spacecraft sampling site to be free of debris and stones to facilitate material picking. It is hoped that OSIRIS-REx will be able to see Bennu even better in this closer orbit so that scientists can find the best place to take a sample by summer 2020.


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