Japan's space agency has confirmed that its Hayabusa2 space probe has succeeded in creating an artificial crater on the surface of an asteroid, the world's first attempt to study its interior.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency made the confirmation on Thursday after analyzing images taken from 1,700 meters above the asteroid, named Ryugu.
This followed an earlier success on April 5 that smashed a metal projectile, called "impactor," onto the asteroid with the aim of creating a crater.
Just before the impact, Hayabusa2 had evacuated to the other side of the asteroid to avoid being hit by flying debris. The probe then spent two weeks to come back to a location 20,000 meters above the impact point.
The probe on Thursday descended to an altitude of 1,700 meters to take close-up photos of the asteroid.
JAXA scientists compared the images with those taken before the impact, and found a depression that did not exist before. They say this is proof of the first artificial crater created ever on the surface of an asteroid.
Project Manager Yuichi Tsuda told a news conference that it was an extremely challenging mission. He said his team feels it has achieved a great success.
Tsuda said the team will examine the photos in more detail to decide if it will be feasible to make Hayabusa2 land inside the crater to pick up rock samples.