India hopes to become the fourth country to touch down on the moon on Friday afternoon, joining the likes of the US, the former Soviet Union and China.

Should its craft land successfully, it will be the first nation to land near the lunar south pole.

This area of the Earth’s satellite is particularly interesting because of the possibility that ice could be there.

Dr Francisco Diego, a senior teaching fellow of astrophysics at University College London, said the spacecraft’s attempt at a soft landing on the lunar surface was expected to be “very challenging”.

“This mission manifests the best of Indian talent and spirit of tenacity. Its success will benefit Indians,” Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi wrote on Twitter.

The Chandrayaan-2, which translates as “moon vehicle” in Sanskrit, took off on July 22 from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota.

Its initial launch was scheduled for a week earlier, but it was called off due to a “technical snag”.

Its orbiter and landing module successfully separated on Monday — six weeks into the mission — according to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

The agency said it expects the lander and rover to touch down early on Saturday.

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