NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft unfolded its robotic arm Oct. 20, 2020, and in a beginning for the agency, briefly reached an asteroid to accumulate dust and pebbles from the surface and will bring it to Earth in 2023.
This well-preserved, ancient asteroid, which is called Bennu, which is now more than 200 million miles (321 million kilometers) from Earth. Bennu offers scientists a window into the early solar system as it was first taking shape billions of years ago and throwing ingredients that could have benefited seed the life on Earth.
The sampling phase brought the spacecraft all the way down to the site Nightingale, touching down within three feet of the targeted location. The team on Earth got confirmation at 6:08 p.m. EDT that a successful touchdown happened. Preliminary data show the one-foot-wide sampling head met Bennu’s surface for about 6 seconds, after which the spacecraft made a back-away burn.
These photos were captured over about a five-minute period. The imaging sequence starts at about 82 feet above the surface of the asteroid, and runs through the back-away procedure, with the last picture in the sequence taken at approximately 43 feet (13 meters) in altitude – about 35 seconds after backing away. The sequence was made using 82 SamCam images, with 1.25 seconds between frames.