Last year, NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex probe shot a photo of asteroid Bennu from only 0.4 miles away. But NASA has just released the latest set of photos that are more close and personal. The probe touched the asteroid’s surface on Tuesday and captured a set of incredible photos from up close.
The series of photos was captured on 20 October as a part of the OSIRIS-REx mission’s Touch-And-Go (TAG) sample collection event. In the slideshow above, you can see the SamCam imager’s field of view as the spacecraft approaches and touches the surface of the asteroid, over 200 million miles (321 million km) away from Earth. In the lower part of the frame, you can see OSIRIS-REx’s sampling arm called the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM). The photos you can see above were captured within a 5-minute period.
In a blog post, NASA explains the mission further:
“The round head at the end of TAGSAM is the only part of OSIRIS-REx that contacted the surface during the sample collection event. In the middle of the image sequence, the sampling head positions itself to contact the asteroid’s surface head-on. Shortly after, the sampling head impacts site Nightingale and penetrates Bennu’s regolith. Upon initial contact, the TAGSAM head appears to crush some of the porous rocks underneath it. One second later, the spacecraft fires a nitrogen gas bottle, which mobilizes a substantial amount of the sample site’s material. Preliminary data show the spacecraft spent approximately 5 of the 6 seconds of contact collecting surface material, and the majority of sample collection occurred within the first 3 seconds.”
In another video, NASA has shared another sequence of images. It shows SamCam imager’s field of view as the NASA spacecraft backs away from asteroid Bennu’s surface after touching down.
[via Digital Trends; Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona]