The NEAR-Shoemaker spacecraft was designed to provide a comprehensive characterization of the S-type asteroid 433 Eros (refs 1-3), an irregularly shaped body with approximate dimensions of 34 ?? 13 ?? 13 km. Following the completion of its year-long investigation, the mission was terminated with a controlled descent to its surface, in order to provide extremely high resolution images. Here we report the results of the descent on 12 February 2001, during which 70 images were obtained. The landing area is marked by a paucity of small craters and an abundance of 'ejecta blocks'. The properties and distribution of ejecta blocks are discussed in a companion paper. The last sequence of images reveals a transition from the blocky surface to a smooth area, which we interpret as a 'pond'. Properties of the 'ponds' are discussed in a second companion paper. The closest image, from an altitude of 129 m, shows the interior of a 100-m-diameter crater at 1-cm resolution.