strong>November 8, 2018 – This set of 16 images shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft’s steady approach toward the asteroid Bennu during the last half of October 2018. From October 12 to October 29, the long-range PolyCam camera took one optical navigation image per day, except on October 16 and 17 when PolyCam was not scheduled to take images.
The spacecraft was approximately 27,340 miles (44,000 km) from Bennu for the first image – a distance several thousand miles greater than the circumference of the Earth. The last image was taken from a distance of around 200 miles (320 km), or slightly less than the distance between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
The launch of the NASA OSIRIS-REx mission took place on September 8, 2016. Since then, the spacecraft has been traveling through space to reach its target, primitive asteroid Bennu.
These early images will be used as important calibration tools to help scientists interpret the results of higher resolution images beginning in December 2018. Upcoming images will be obtained with MapCam, also one of the cameras of the mission, using color filters that will allow team members to generate color maps and to study the geographical distribution of different materials on Bennu.
The images will also help in selecting the surface region on Bennu where a sample will be collected and returned back to Earth in 2023.