A NASA spacecraft has gone into orbit around an ancient asteroid, setting a pair of records.
The Osiris-Rex spacecraft entered orbit on Tuesday (AEDT) around the asteroid Bennu, 110 million kilometres from Earth.
It’s the smallest celestial body ever to be orbited by a spacecraft.
Bennu is just 500 metres across.
Watch a quick recap of my December, including the milestone I reached today: going into orbit around Bennu for the first time! ➡️ https://t.co/fwL3FEEjhO
— NASA's OSIRIS-REx (@OSIRISREx) December 31, 2018
The spacecraft’s laps are just 1.75 kilometres above the asteroid’s surface, another record.
Osiris-Rex arrived at Bennu in early December and flew in formation with it until the latest manoeuvre.
The goal is to grab gravel samples in 2020 for return to Earth in 2023.
The New Year’s Eve milestone occurred just hours before another NASA explorer, New Horizons, was set to fly past an icy space rock beyond Pluto.
RIGHT NOW, ~1 billion miles past Pluto, @NASANewHorizons is performing the most distant spacecraft flyby ever as it zooms past #UltimaThule, an icy, ancient rock in the Kuiper Belt. Watch live coverage: https://t.co/oJKHgKpQjH pic.twitter.com/U30yazzigo
— NASA (@NASA) January 1, 2019