November 5, 2008

India Moon Probe On Track

India's Chandrayaan 1 spacecraft is positioning itself to begin orbiting the Moon.

The satellite has been gradually approaching the Moon since its launch on October 22.

On Tuesday, Chandrayaan's 440-Newton liquid engine fired for two-and-a-half minutes to set the spacecraft on a looping trajectory that will send the craft nearly 380,000km from Earth.

On Saturday, another firing will allow the satellite to enter into the lunar orbit so it may begin a two-year lunar surface mapping mission.

Tuesday's maneuver was the fifth event to be overseen by India's space agency. 

The probe will follow the sweeping trajectory until a braking maneuver on November 8 will allow the spacecraft to enter the Moon's gravity.

Additional braking will bring the Indian Moon mapper into a circular, 100km lunar orbit.

The satellite will then create a three-dimensional map of the lunar surface, while also gathering data on the distribution of minerals and elements.

Earlier this week, India released spectacular pictures taken of Australia by Chandrayaan's Terrain Mapping Camera.


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