NASA publishes most-detailed PHOTOS of Earth-bound, water-bearing asteroid yet

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has sent back the most detailed images to date of the Bennu asteroid, marking the continued success of arguably one of the most ambitious space exploration missions in human history.

The latest images of Bennu were taken by the spacecraft’s NavCam 1 navigation camera on January 17 at a distance of roughly a mile (1.6 kilometers) above Bennu’s surface with a 1/700 second shutter speed.

The images showcase Bennu’s south pole in truly incredible detail as the initial surveys of the potentially Earth-bound asteroid continue.

The OSIRIS-REx mission was launched in 2016 with the stated objective of studying and collecting samples from the 1,700ft-wide space rock.

The probe arrived at Bennu in December 2018, having completed its 1.2 billion-mile journey from Earth, but only recently began orbiting the asteroid which is the smallest object that has ever been orbited by a man-made spacecraft.

Bennu is so small it possesses a weak gravitational field which is why the NavCam 1 is so critical to keeping pace with Bennu and maintaining the rather difficult orbit.

Just days after reaching Bennu, OSIRIS-REx sent back groundbreaking data revealing that the asteroid contains water. The craft will collect at least two ounces of samples from the asteroid and bring it back to Earth in 2023.