This Week in Space! October 20, 1970 – the Soviet Zond 8 Mission
This week in 1970 the Soviet Union launched the last spacecraft of its Zond (Russian for “probe”) program. Known as Zond 8, the spacecraft was sent to take images of the lunar surface.
This was the last of the Soviet efforts to fly around the moon and back to Earth in preparation for sending cosmonauts to the moon.
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Using the Proton family of rockets, the Zond missions were just powerful enough to send the Zond on a free return trajectory around the moon without going into lunar orbit (the same kind of path flown by Apollo 13 in its emergency abort).
With small modifications, the Zond could carry two cosmonauts.
Among the scientific instruments on board were a solar wind collection package and an imaging system. A week after launch, on October 27, Zond 8 splashed down in the Indian Ocean and was recovered by a Soviet naval vessel.