Nagoya, Japan - The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa) has released the final images taken by its lunar explorer Kaguya as it fell to destruction on the moon.
The planned crash took place on June 11, with the onboard HDTV taking pictures right up until the end. The series of shots was taken at intervals of about one minute while Kaguya was maneuvered to decrease its altitude toward the impact position, near Gill crater.
The pictures show the approaching moon surface, with long shadows visible because of the probe's location on the near side of the moon where the sun had just set.
In the last of the pictures, the image turns to black as Kaguya falls into the shade. The rough surface inside the crater can clearly be seen as the sun shines from the back left hand side in the polar area.
Jaxa launched the Kaguya mission in September 2007, and the probe has been continuously performing full-scale scientific observations since December that year. It's gathered data on the topography, minerals, and magnetic and gravitational fields of the entire moon's surface.