Earlier today the Indian Space Research Organization announced that its first foray into deep-space exploration, Chandrayaan 1, has begun orbiting the Moon.
Rather than sending Chandrayaan 1 straight for the Moon following its launch on October 22nd, Indian flight controllers took a step-by-step approach to get the craft to its destination. And today, as it passed with 300 miles (500 km) of the Moon at 11:21 Universal Time, the spacecraft fired a braking rocket for nearly 14 minutes to allow its capture by lunar gravity.
For the moment, Chandrayaan 1 is looping around the Moon every 11 hours in a highly elliptical polar orbit that extends out to some 4,700 miles (7,500 km). Over the next few days, however, additional rocket burns will shrink this to a final orbit just 60 miles (100 km) high. After that observations with an international suite of 11 instruments should commence, beginning with the release of a small Moon Impact Probe. The mission is expected to last two years.
As the ISRO notes in its celebratory press release, India has become the sixth spacefaring power to place a craft in lunar orbit — having followed the lead of the United States, Soviet Union, European Space Agency, Japan, and China.