JAXA releases Hayabusa2 landing images

Japan's space agency, JAXA, has released three photos taken by the space probe Hayabusa2 during its landing on the asteroid Ryugu in its unprecedented mission to collect underground samples.

One of the photos released on Thursday, taken 4 seconds before touchdown, is a close-up of the asteroid's rocky surface.

The second photo was taken at the moment of touchdown, as a cylindrical sample collector on the probe reached the surface. The image is partially blurred, apparently due to a cloud of sand dust stirred up on impact.

The third photo was taken 4 seconds later, immediately after the sample collector fired a bullet into the surface to collect rock samples. The photo shows countless shattered rocks flying around.

Professor Seiichiro Watanabe of Nagoya University is a senior member of the JAXA project team.

He said the images indicate that a sand deposit was created on the surface after Hayabusa2 formed a crater on Ryugu in April.

Watanabe said this means the collector very likely gathered samples from inside the asteroid.