During routine instrument calibrations, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft captured this heart-shaped themed image of its Sample Return Capsule (SRC) and asteroid Bennu together. The Sun, from its position to the left of the frame, casts a heart-shaped illumination onto the top of the SRC. The shimmers of light covering the SRC are the result of sunlight reflecting off the Multi-Layer Insulation (MLI) blankets around the spacecraft’s high gain antenna. These reflective, germanium-coated MLI blankets, which provide thermal protection to the spacecraft, can be seen covering most of the spacecraft’s exterior. The image was captured by the StowCam camera on Dec. 11, 2019, while OSIRIS-REx was orbiting Bennu at a distance of 0.7 miles (1.1 km).
StowCam, a color imager, is one of the three cameras in the TAGCAMS (Touch-And-Go Camera System) camera suite. The imager is focused on the SRC to confirm that the asteroid sample is safely stowed after sample collection. Malin Space Science Systems designed, built, and tested TAGCAMS; Lockheed Martin integrated TAGCAMS to the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft and operates TAGCAMS.
The SRC is designed to hold a sample of rocks and dust from Bennu during the spacecraft’s return to Earth. OSIRIS-REx, NASA’s first asteroid sample return mission, is scheduled to make its preliminary sample collection attempt in August 2020 and will return to Earth on Sept. 24, 2023.