REx Views Earth During Flyby

REx Views Earth During Flyby”

The space agency's OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft flew roughly 11,000 miles above Antarctica at 12:52 p.m. ET, and used the planet's gravity to re-orient its position so it could then fly to the Bennu asteroid, NASA said Friday.

NASA released this new color composite image of Earth from space today (September 26, 2017).

MapCam is part of the OSIRIS-REx Camera Suite (OCAMS) operated by the University of Arizona. Australia is at lower left, and the southwestern United States and Baja California are visible in the upper-right portion of the image.

The black melting-like streaks at the top of the image were caused by short exposure times, which were less than three milliseconds, according to NASA. Earth shone so brightly during the flyby that the camera had to cut its clicks short, but that's not expected to pose a problem when OSIRIS-REx makes its rendezvous with the much darker asteroid.

The $800 million OSIRIS-REx mission - whose name is short for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer - launched on September 8, 2016.

The photo op arose because OSIRIS-REx's mission navigators took advantage of Earth's gravitational field to slingshot the 20-foot-wide probe toward the asteroid Bennu, which it's due to reach in late 2018.

DellaGiustina said she's really looking forward to how OSIRIS-REx fares during the journey to asteroid Bennu for sample extraction.

Scientists around the world will then analyze the sample, searching for clues about the solar system's early days and the role Bennu, and other asteroids like it, may have played in delivering life's building blocks to Earth.

The mission's name sums up all those objectives in an acronym that stands for "Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification and Security - Regolith Explorer".

Lauretta noted the success of Friday's Earth flyby is encouraging as OSIRIS-REx continues its mission.

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