Launch Date Oct. 20. 1970
Launch Site Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Russia |
Launch Site 81L
Destination Earth’s Moon
Type Flyby (Circumlunar)
Status Successful
Nation Soviet Union
Alternate Names 1970-088A, 04591

Goals

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.

Accomplishments

Zond 8 successfully looped around the Moon and returned to Earth. It took high-quality photos of Earth and the Moon and conducted measurements of the lunar environment. Though its guidance system evidently malfunctioned during the return flight, it splashed down safely in the Indian Ocean 24 km from its original target.

Key Dates

Oct. 20. 1970: Launch
Oct. 27, 1970: Return to Earth

In Depth

Zond 8 was the last in the series of circumlunar spacecraft designed to rehearse a piloted circumlunar flight. The project was initiated in 1965 to compete with the Americans in the race to the Moon, but lost its importance once three astronauts circled the Moon on the Apollo 8 mission in December 1968.

After a midcourse correction on 22 October at a distance of 250,000 km from Earth, Zond 8 reached the Moon without any apparent problems, circling its target on 24 October at a range of 1,200 km. The spacecraft took black-and-white photographs of the lunar surface during two separate sessions.

After two midcourse corrections on the return leg, Zond 8 flew a return over Earth's northern hemisphere instead of the standard southern approach profile, allowing Soviet ground control stations to maintain near-continuous contact with the ship. The guidance system evidently malfunctioned on the return leg, and the spacecraft performed a simple ballistic (instead of a guided) reentry into Earth's atmosphere. The vehicle's descent module splashed down safely in the Indian Ocean at 13:55 UT on 27 October about 730 km southeast of the Chagos Islands, 24 km from its original target point.

Spacecraft

Launch Vehicle: Proton booster plus upper stage and escape stages; 8K82K + Blok D (Proton-K no. 250-01)

Spacecraft Mass: c. 5,375 kg

Spacecraft Instruments:

  1. solar wind collector packages

  2. imaging system

Additional Resources

National Space Science Data Center Master Catalog Master Catalog: Zond 8

National Space Science Data Center Master Catalog Soviet Lunar Missions

Selected References

Siddiqi, Asif A. Deep Space Chronicle: A Chronology of Deep Space and Planetary Probes 1958-2000, NASA, 2002.

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