Last week, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample-return mission announced that they had achieved an orbit above asteroid Bennu with an altitude of only 680 meters. Now they are surveying for landing sites and have invited the public's help.
The OSIRIS-REx team recently issued their first data release to the Planetary Data System. This release doesn’t include any closeup pictures of asteroid Bennu, but it does include all the pictures they took during their September 2017 Earth flyby.
Today at 19:43 UTC, OSIRIS-REx entered orbit at asteroid Bennu. In so doing, it accomplished both the tightest orbit (at an altitude under 2 kilometers) and the orbit of the smallest object ever. UPDATE: Early science results from OSIRIS-REx discussed at New Horizons MU69 flyby event.
OSIRIS-REx launched on September 8, 2016. Now, a year later, it's returning to its home to get a second boost on to its destination, the asteroid Bennu. It'll test all its cameras on Earth and the Moon in the 10 days after the flyby.
What's ahead for our intrepid space explorers in 2017? It'll be the end of Cassini, but not before the mission performs great science close to the rings. OSIRIS-REx will fly by Earth, and Chang'e 5 will launch to the Moon, as a host of other spacecraft continue their ongoing missions.
As OSIRIS-REx speeds away from Earth, it’s been turning on and testing out its various engineering functions and science instruments. Proof of happy instrument status has come from several cameras, including the star tracker, MapCam, and StowCam.