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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 January, 2005, 17:31 GMT
Lunar probe's amazing new images
Smart-1 is Europe's first mission to the Moon

The European-built Smart-1 spacecraft has sent back its first close-up images of the Moon, showing the cratered landscape in glorious detail.

Smart-1 entered its initial lunar orbit on 15 November 2004 and has spent the two months since spiralling ever closer to the Moon and testing instruments.

The images provided mission scientists with confirmation that the probe's crucial Amie camera is working.

The Smart-1 team plans to build up a full map of the lunar surface.

The first four days after Smart-1 was captured by lunar gravity were critical for the mission.

The probe was in an unstable orbit, posing a risk that the spacecraft would either escape the Moon's orbit or crash on to its surface. Because of this, the electric propulsion system (or ion engine) started a thrust to stabilise the capture.

The pictures show the spacecraft's Amie camera is in good working order

The pictures were taken in a period during 29 December 2004 and 3 January 2005, when the probe's ion engine was switched off allowing scientists to make observations.

The engine is currently off again, allowing team members to make a medium-resolution survey of the Moon - taking advantage of favourable illumination conditions.

The team plans to later integrate high-resolution images observed from a lower altitude into this map.

"This image was the first proof that the Amie camera is still working well in lunar orbit," said the instrument's principal investigator Jean-Luc Josset of company Space-X.

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