September 26, 2017 – NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft took this color composite image of Earth using its MapCam camera on September 22, 2017. This image was taken just hours after the spacecraft completed its Earth Gravity Assist at a range of approximately 106,000 miles (170,000 kilometers). MapCam is part of the OSIRIS-REx Camera Suite (OCAMS) operated by the University of Arizona.
Visible in this image are the Pacific Ocean and several familiar landmasses, including Australia in the lower left, and Baja California and the southwestern United States in the upper right.
The dark vertical streaks at the top of the image are caused by short exposure times (less than three milliseconds). Short exposure times are required for imaging an object as bright as Earth, but are not anticipated for an object as dark as the asteroid Bennu, which the camera was designed to image.
OSIRIS-REx used the Earth Gravity Assist to change its trajectory to put the spacecraft on course to match that of asteroid Bennu. Bennu’s orbit around the Sun is tilted six degrees in comparison to Earth’s.
OSIRIS-REx is undertaking a challenging mission to visit the near-Earth asteroid, survey the surface, collect samples and deliver them safely back to Earth. This is the first NASA mission to attempt such an undertaking. The spacecraft is halfway through its two-year outbound journey.
The mission team is using OSIRIS-REx’s Earth flyby as an opportunity to test the spacecraft’s instrument suite. Images like the one above are being used to calibrate the spacecraft’s science instruments in preparation for OSIRIS-REx’s arrival at Bennu in late 2018.
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center provides overall mission management, systems engineering and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson, is the principal investigator, and the University of Arizona also leads the science team and the mission’s science observation planning and data processing. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft and is providing flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the agency’s New Frontiers Program for the Science Mission Directorate in Washington.