On December 3, 2018, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx space probe successfully approached its destination: the asteroid Bennu. Now, the space agency has released a summary look at the OSIRIS-REx mission, which features 4K video of the approach. And the first-person glimpse of what it’s like to close in on another (tiny) world is quite enlightening.
NASA Goddard recently posted the above video to its YouTube channel. The space agency notes in the video’s description that OSIRIS-REx has imaged Bennu—an asteroid with a diameter of 1,600 feet flying through space approximately 200 million miles from Earth—in higher resolution than we have our own planet or the Moon. A fact that makes the asteroid approach all the more vivid.
The first section of the video shows Bennu grow in size as OSIRIS-REx closes in on the asteroid. Bennu begins as just a few pixels in the middle of the screen, but quickly blooms into a spinning nodule of rock. As the nodule itself grows in size, the dusty, rocky surface of Bennu comes into crisp focus. Albeit in black and white. (We’re getting spoiled with color images of other worlds now.)
The most striking aspect of the approach—for our money, anyway—is the way Bennu feels like a small world; rather than just a 1,600-foot-wide hunk of rock. There’s plenty of space on Bennu’s surface to jump around. And one could even leap off the surface, enter into orbit around the asteroid, and then touch back down. The space probe, in fact, captured rocks doing just that.
OSIRIS-REx imaged Bennu for the last time on April 7, 2021, and is now headed back to Earth. Once it returns, the probe’s return capsule will reenter Earth’s atmosphere, and touch down under parachute in Utah. I.e. the place that looks like kind of like the surface of Bennu, only with more alien statues.