AMU Editor's Pick Original Space

This Week in Space! October 20, 1970 – the Soviet Zond 8 Mission

By Wes O’Donnell
Managing Editor of In Space News, In Military and InCyberDefense.

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.

Zond 8. Image courtesy NASA/JPL
Zond 8 Lunar Image. Courtesy NASA/JPL
Zond 8 Lunar Image. Courtesy NASA/JPL

Wes O’Donnell is an Army and Air Force veteran and writer covering military and tech topics. As a sought-after professional speaker, Wes has presented at U.S. Air Force Academy, Fortune 500 companies, and TEDx, covering trending topics from data visualization to leadership and veterans’ advocacy. As a filmmaker, he directed the award-winning short film, “Memorial Day.”

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