Page last updated at 16:50 GMT, Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Moon probe set for lunar arrival

Moon paths
The probe has looped out to the Moon; now it must circle in on the lunar body

India's Chandrayaan 1 spacecraft has moved itself into a position ready to enter into orbit around the Moon.

Since its launch on 22 October, the satellite has been gradually extending its distance from Earth.

The latest engine firing put the probe on a looping trajectory that sweeps out to some 380,000km from home.

A further firing on Saturday will allow Chandrayaan to tuck in around the lunar body from where it can begin its two-year surface-mapping mission.

Earth (ISRO)
Chandrayaan pictures home
Tuesday's orbit-raising manoeuvre was the fifth such event overseen by the Indian space agency's (ISRO) Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) in Bangalore; with support from Indian Deep Space Network antennas at Byalalu.

Ground controllers instructed the spacecraft's 440-Newton liquid engine to fire for about two-and-a-half minutes to get Chandrayaan on to the Lunar Transfer Trajectory.

The probe's orbit now sweeps out to the lunar distance (apogee) before coming back around the Earth (perigee). A braking manoeuvre on 8 November will allow Chandrayaan to be captured by the Moon's gravity.

Further brakings will bring the Indian Moon mapper down to a near-circular, 100km orbit.

The robotic probe will compile a 3D atlas of the lunar surface and map the distribution of elements and minerals.

Earlier this week, ISRO released pictures Chandrayaan had taken of Earth. Its Terrain Mapping Camera grabbed spectacular views of Australia.

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