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Sci-Tech

Daredevil NASA spacecraft snaps asteroid Bennu from crazy-close orbit

Bennu's boulders are getting all up in Osiris-Rex's face.

Osiris-Rex snuggled up close to asteroid Bennu.

NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin

NASA's Osiris-Rex spacecraft is a beast and a thrill-seeker. It broke its own record for "the closest orbit a spacecraft has ever made around a planetary body" and then it snapped a photo to prove its own audaciousness. The agency shared a breathtaking navigation image on Monday of asteroid Bennu from Osiris-Rex's new orbital distance of a mere 0.4 miles (690 meters) above the ancient rubble-covered rock

In the image, you can see a massive boulder sitting toward the bottom of the asteroid. This boulder is about the length of school bus. 

Osiris-Rex (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) settled into its new orbit on June 13, breaking its previous record of orbiting 0.8 miles (1.3 kilometers) above the surface.

Bennu is classified as a potentially hazardous near-Earth asteroid, though its chances of smacking our planet are slim and distant.

The spacecraft is designed to reach out to Bennu, snag a sample of surface material and bring it back to Earth in 2023. NASA is currently assessing potential sample sites, a task it has asked the public to help with

Scientists hope to learn more about the formation of the solar system by studying Bennu. Osiris-Rex's successful orbital space snuggle is a testament to the spacecraft's capabilities, but it also happens to give us a spectacular view of an awesome asteroid to enjoy.

Originally published June 18, 9:56 a.m. PT.