Scientists from the Galileo project today released the world's first close-up image of an asteroid, taken October 29 by the Galileo spacecraft some 34 minutes before it flew past the asteroid Gaspra at a distance of 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles).
At that time the spacecraft and the asteroid were about 330 million kilometers (205 million miles) from the Sun, and 410 million kilometers (255 million miles) from Earth.
The picture was taken through a green filter by the Galileo spacecraft's imaging system at a range of about 16,200 kilometers (10,000 miles) from Gaspra. It is one of about a dozen pictures Galileo took of the asteroid.
The Galileo team expects to have the spacecraft transmit to Earth next year all the spacecraft's Gaspra observations, including one picture taken at even closer range, a group to be combined with this green-filter image to make a color picture, other images and other scientific data.
The Galileo project, whose primary mission is to explore the Jupiter system in 1995-97, is managed for NASA's Office of Space Science and Applications by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.