Russia launched its first mission to the surface of the Moon in nearly half a century, in a bid to be the first country to land on the lunar south pole.

Moscow’s Luna 25 mission lifted off on schedule from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Russian Far East.

The Moon’s south pole is believed to hold deposits of water.

The Russian mission is racing against India, which sent up its own lander last month that is already orbiting the Moon.

Russia’s space chief told Interfax the lander is expected to touch down on 21 August. As of earlier this week, India’s Chandrayaan-3’s spacecraft was due to reach the surface on 23 August.

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