Here’s a View of Earth and the Moon from Asteroid Bennu, 111 Million Kilometers Away

Here's what Earth, and the moon look like as seen from 114 million kilometers away.

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) mission has captured an image that shows the Earth and the in a new, never-before-seen image.

The image was taken on December 18, 2018, when OSIRIS-REx used its NavCam 1 camera to capture this image of three familiar planetary bodies: the asteroid Bennu, the Earth, and the Moon.

Instrument Used: TAGCAMS (NavCam 1). Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin Space.
Instrument Used: TAGCAMS (NavCam 1). Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin Space.

Despite the distance of the spacecraft from home– about 71 million miles (114 million kilometers) –the Earth and the Moon are visible in the lower-left due to the long exposure time used for this image (five seconds).

The spacecraft’s range to Bennu at the time was only about 27 miles (43 kilometers), so the asteroid appears highly overexposed in the upper right.

The head of the constellation Hydra is also visible in the lower right portion of the image.

NavCam 1 is a black-and-white imager that is one of three cameras comprising TAGCAMS (the Touch-and-Go Camera System), which is part of OSIRIS-REx’s guidance, navigation, and control system. TAGCAMS was designed, built, and tested by Malin Space Science Systems; Lockheed Martin Space integrated TAGCAMS to the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft and operates TAGCAMS.

You can download the full resolution image here: full (2758×2100) 

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx entered into orbit around Bennu on December 31, 2018, making Bennu the smallest object ever to be orbited by a spacecraft.

“The team continued our long string of successes by executing the orbit-insertion maneuver perfectly,” explained Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

“With the navigation campaign coming to an end, we are looking forward to the scientific mapping and sample site selection phase of the mission.”

Osiris-REx update March 2022

The spacecraft is currently heading back to Earth. NASA reports suggest OSIRIS-REx should reach our home planet in 2023, successfully returning soil samples the spacecraft gathered from the surface of asteroid Bennu. The spacecraft managed to briefly “touch down” on the surface of Bennu on October 20, 2020, collecting at least 60 g (2.1 oz) of surface samples.

The spacecraft is expected to release its return capsule with the asteroid samples on 24 September 2023. If everything goes according to plan, the capsule is scheduled to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and land with the aid of a parachute at the Air Force’s Utah Test and Training Range.


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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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