Ten days after a swingby to receive a gravitational boost toward its asteroid target, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft turned one of its cameras back toward Earth, resolving its bluish home planet hanging in the void of space accompanied by the Moon.
The MapCam camera on the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft took the composite color image Oct. 2 at a distance of around 3.2 million miles (5.1 million kilometres) from Earth, or approximately 13 times the distance between the Earth and the moon.
The moon appeared just inside MapCam’s field of view, allowing both planetary bodies to appear in the same frame, according to information released by scientists at the University of Arizona, which operates the camera.
MapCam is one of three science cameras aboard OSIRIS-REx, which launched in September 2016 on a two-year journey to asteroid Bennu, an object measuring around 1,600 feet (500 metres) in diameter that regularly comes near Earth. The robotic mission will arrive at Bennu late next year, survey the unexplored asteroid, and then descend to its surface for a touch-and-go maneuver to capture at least 2.1 ounces — 60 grammes — of rock samples for return to Earth in September 2023.
OSIRIS-REx is short for the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security – Regolith Explorer.
The probe’s Sept. 22 flyby of Earth used the planet’s gravity to slingshot toward Bennu, naturally bending its trajectory without expending precious fuel.
The MapCam camera got a much closer view of Earth just after the Sept. 22 flyby, returning a view of the Pacific Ocean from a distance of 106,000 miles…