“A picture is worth a thousand words.” How often have you heard that phrase? It may very well be true, but this picture is worth more than that. What you see could be called a billion-dollar picture. At first glance, this picture may not look like much. However, you need to take a good look at the large white dot in the center. That’s us.
In September of 2016, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched a spacecraft called OSIRIS-REx. The name stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer. Its purpose is to study asteroids. Specifically, it was launched to study a near-Earth asteroid named 101955 Bennu. It will not only study the asteroid, but if all goes as planned, it will take a sample from Bennu and return that sample to Earth. The total cost of the project will be about one billion dollars, but it’s much more than a billion-dollar picture.
On January 17, 2018, OSIRIS-REx turned its NavCam 1 camera toward Earth and snapped this picture. The spacecraft was almost 40 million miles (63.6 million km) from Earth and traveling away at 19,000 miles per hour (8.5 km per second). The largest and brightest spot in the picture is Earth. The smaller dot close to it is our Moon. The cluster of stars in the upper left is the Pleiades. In the top right is Hamal, the brightest star in the constellation Aries. Surrounding the Earth and Moon are five stars that are the head of the whale in the constellation Cetus.
OSIRIS-REx reached the vicinity of Bennu on December 3, 2018. It will be orbiting the asteroid and scanning the surface looking for a good place to land. That process will continue until July of 2020 when it will land and gather a sample. Scientists plan for OSIRIS-REx to deliver that sample to Earth in September of 2023.
Scientists hope that by studying the asteroid sample, they will learn more about the formation of our solar system. They hope to learn more about asteroids in general and what we might do to prevent one from slamming into our planet. There is also hope for mining useful minerals from asteroids and getting a better idea of the history of Earth. The whole list of scientific objectives for this space probe is contained in that long name for which we use the acronym OSIRIS-REx.
Forgetting about the cost and ambitious objectives, we enjoy looking at this view of Earth from far, far away. It reminds us of what a big solar system and universe we live in and how amazing is the God who designed it all. It also reminds us of the challenge God gave to Job about the Pleiades in Job 38:31-33. We encourage you to read God’s entire challenge in Job 38:1 to 40:2 as you look at this billion-dollar picture.
–Roland Earnst © 2018
This report is an update of our previous post on February 26, 2018.