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Asteroid-Circling Spacecraft Grabs Cool Snapshot Of Home

Wednesday, January 09, 2019
NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin Space via AP

MARCIA DUNN, AP Aerospace Writer

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — 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.

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 Florida in 2016.