The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft captures these images at Benus's southern pole on January 17th.
Credit: NASA / Goddard / University NASA mission OSIRIS-REx travels around the asteroid closer than any spacecraft ever circulating around the body ̵
The spacecraft slid into orbit around the asteroid called Bennu on Dec. 31 after the team carefully mapped the site to design a safe way for the probe. It was a challenge because Bennu was the smallest cosmic rock ever to be found.
But the dangerous maneuver has paid off. OSIRIS-REx travels about 1.6 kilometers above Bennu's surface, giving its cameras an incredible view of the rocky surface of the asteroid. Scientists believe that this rough shape is the result of Bennu being formed from a pile of rubble that clusters together. [The Greatest Asteroid Encounters of All Time!]
The two images shown here are made by a tool called NavCam, which is the main camera the team uses to manage the spacecraft. The photos taken away on January 17 show Bennu's southern pole
Another recently released image of Bennu's southern pole taken during the preparation of the spacecraft for orbit was captured at a distance of about 8 miles
This photograph was taken from a different camera of the spacecraft, called MapCam, which is one of the scientific instruments of the probe, not a dedicated navigation camera. Its main goal is to photograph the asteroid in color and help the team choose the place where they will collect the sample to bring Earth to the analysis.
The sampling process will not start until the middle of 2020, after the team has enough time to study Bennu from all angles and make an informed decision on where to collect the sample – partly informed through detailed observations of surface stones that could interfere with sampling equipment.