CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – An asteroid-circling spacecraft has captured a cool snapshot of home.
NASA's Osiris-Rex spacecraft took the picture days before going into orbit around asteroid Bennu on New Year's Eve.
The tiny asteroid -- barely one-third of a mile (500 meters) across -- appears as a big bright blob in the long-exposure photo released last week. Seventy million miles (110 million kilometers) away, Earth appears as a white dot, with the moon an even smaller dot but still clearly visible.
An entire journey in one frame... My NavCam1 imager captured this shot of Earth, the Moon, and Bennu before I went into orbit.— NASA's OSIRIS-REx (@OSIRISREx) January 4, 2019
During Orbital A, my team is using "OpNav" (short for optical navigation) images like these to keep me on course. Image details: https://t.co/qMT1e9cqxZ pic.twitter.com/MRb7uO1yX1
Osiris-Rex is the first spacecraft to orbit such a small celestial body, and from such a close distance -- about a mile (1,600 meters) out.
Next year, Osiris-Rex will attempt to gather some samples from the carbon-rich asteroid, for return to Earth in 2023.
Osiris-Rex launched from Cape Canaveral in 2016.