(CNN) "In the dark and lonely space that is space, the mission of NASA OSIRIS-REx has managed to reach a new level of proximity while studying an asteroid.
After the maneuver, the spacecraft in NASA's mission to explore the asteroids travels closer to a planetary body than ever had a spacecraft come.
The mission has recently entered a new phase where the spacecraft will travel about 2,231 feet or 0,4 miles above the surface of the Bennu asteroid.
During this phase, known as Orbital B, the spacecraft will take pictures of the asteroid horizon and map the site to determine where the best sampling point is on Bennu's surface, NASA said in a statement published in Thursday.
It will remain as close to the asteroid by the second week of August.
The spacecraft broke its previous record, which was about 4,224 feet or 0.8 miles away from Bennou.
OSIRIS-REx, which refers to Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer, is NASA's first mission to return a sample of asteroids.
This is a seven-year mission. The spacecraft, launched in September 2016, arrived in Bennu in December 2018. He will explore and map Bennu, move in close proximity to the asteroid, and eventually touch the surface for five seconds to take a sample, reports the mission website.
"This sample of a primitive asteroid will help scientists understand the formation of the Solar System more than 4.5 billion years ago," NASA said.
Bennu is an asteroid near the Earth that can move our planet closer to the Moon in 2135, with even closer approaches in 2175 and 2195.
Although Bennu's chances of directly striking the Earth are unlikely, OSIRIS-REx information can help scientists understand how to divert asteroids around the Earth.
Scientists have already encountered unexpected observations. They found pieces of particles ejected from the surface. This discovery means that Bennu is a rare, active asteroid that regularly throws material into space.
The spacecraft is expected to return to Earth in September 2023.
This story was first published on CNN.com, "NASA's spacecraft travels around the asteroid more than ever."