TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - What looks like a glamor shot of Earth scanned by OSIRIS-REx after its "slingshot" trip around the planet is proof that the mission team in Tucson and all of its equipment passed the test.
Tuesday, Sept. 26 the team shared images of Earth captured by OSIRIS-REx as it moved away from the planet Friday, Sept. 22.
The spacecraft was briefly out of reach as it passed below Antarctica that day. Once everything was back online, it was time to go to work.
"Everything on the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, including the science instruments, performed absolutely flawlessly," said mission leader Dante Lauretta.
He joked that everyone worked late the night the first images were expected to be down linked to Tucson. A large screen was ready with a projector, but someone pulled it up on a laptop first.
"We all dove over across the table to see what was on the screen," he said. "We were so nervous and excited that we couldn't get the cable plugged into the right spot of the computer, everybody was so amped up and excited to see this image come home."
The image from approximately 105,000 miles away is a composite of several scans of the Earth with different filters. OSIRIS-REx is designed to scan and map asteroid Bennu, which will be much darker than our home planet.
"It's going to have a more irregular shape than earth, so mapping for a body like that...becomes a little more challenging," said Lead Image Processing Scientist Dina DellaGiustina. "And we have plenty of software to deal with that, but exercising that will be something that we really do for the first time when we get to asteroid Bennu."
It will be the first time anyone has seen the asteroid. DellaGiustina said they will need to map out Bennu before attempting to land on it and collect samples.
Everyone in the Old Pueblo should be proud that they're connected to the mission because the southwest United States can be seen in the Earth image, according to Lauretta. As the spacecraft travels farther away from the planet, it remains connected to Tucson.
"This town has an enormous amount of expertise and it's all happening right here in your backyard," said Lauretta. "The greatest adventure is still in front of us. Next year is asteroid Bennu and we want everyone to come along with us on that journey."