The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from NASA, which is now on its way to grab a chunk of an asteroid, has also revealed a stunning image of the Earth and its moon on the transit. The image was snapped by the spacecraft on October 2, 2017 right after it made a flyby of Earth, and yet the image has just been released by the NASA.
When the image was snapped, the moon was around 390,000 kilometers (240,000 miles) from the Earth.
The OSIRIS-REx snapped this image from a distance of more than 3 million miles from our planet, which is approximately more than 13 times the distance between the Earth and the moon. The picture was snapped by combining three different images from different color wavelengths. The moon was also brightened to make it more visible.
The spacecraft was launched on 8th of September 2016, but in order to reach its target, it had to orbit the sun for a year before it flew past the earth to get a speed boost owing to Earth’s gravity. That was the closest approach it made to our planet- at an altitude of 17,000 kilometers on the 22nd of September 2017. 10 days later, it snapped this image.
It will now have enough speed to reach Bennu, and will have a rendezvous with the asteroid in August 2018 at a distance of 320 million kilometers away from the earth. In total, the spacecraft will have traveled a distance of 7.2 billion kilometers to reach Bennu.
Once it is at the asteroid, it will use a robotic arm to collect a sample in July 2020. Then, in March 2021, it will begin its journey back to the earth and the sample will be delivered in a capsule back to the earth in September 2023. It will be the biggest sample returned back to the earth since the Apollo missions, and scientists are hoping it could tell us a lot more about the origins of life on the Earth.
The image that we can see isn’t the first time we’ve seen the Earth and the moon from space. Many other spacecrafts have captured similar views, and have shown the distance between these two bodies.
For instance, in 1992, the Galileo spacecraft captured an image of both of these on its way to Jupiter. Then, in 2011, the MESSENGER spacecraft snapped an image of the Earth and the moon from Mercury. In the same year, the Juno spacecraft also did the same on its way to Jupiter.