Orbital Focus - International Spaceflight Facts and Figures
carousel image
Luna - Exploring the Moon

Tyneside, UK
2024 Jun 19
Wednesday, Day 171

Curated by:

Selected Luna Missions:


A different view from Ian Ridpath

Summarised by Don P Mitchell

The Mission of Zond 3

Zond 3 is included here for completeness in that it studied the Moon but it was not part of the concerted Soviet lunar exploration programme of landers and orbiters.In design, it was one of the USSR's interplanetary spacecraft and it flew past the Moon on it's way towards the main target, Mars.

Zond 3 pictureZond 3's design is typical of Soviet interplanetary craft of the 1960s. It echoes the Luna spacecraft of the same era, with a rocket engine at one end, a central section housing spacecraft housekeeping systems and an instrument cluster at the other end (on the right in this view).

Zond 1 headed off towards Venus in 1964, and Zond 2 was despatched towards Mars later the same year. Neither craft operated for more than a few weeks and were radio silent by the time they reached their destinations. Zond 3 was prepared for launching during the 1964 Mars launch window. However, there were delays and the opportunity to launch slipped by. In the event it was launched during 1965 towards the orbit of Mars although Mars was elsewhere by the time Zond 3 got there.

View of the lunar farside from Zond 3Its purpose was an engineering test of spacecraft systems following a whole series of Soviet interplanetary failures. In the event, Zond 3 was still operating when it reached the Martian orbit. In an engineering context, that made it the most successful Soviet interplanetary vehicle up to that time.

As it left the Earth, Zond 3 went past the Moon 1965 July 20 and took 25 pictures of the far side from distances ranging between 10,000 and 12,000 kilometres. To test Zond 3's communications system, The images were then transmitted back to Earth from a distance of 2,200,000 kilometres, and again from 31,500,000 kilometres.

Although it had no specific target of exploration, Zond 3 proved to the Soviet Union, and to the rest of the world, that its scientists were capable of building and operating an interplanetary craft. The success must have been quite frustrating to the scientists and engineers who put it together.

Zond 3 Statistics:

Launch Vehicle: Molniya
Launching Technique: Low orbit around the Earth and then a direct landing trajectory
Mass: 960 kilogrammes
Length: 2.5 metres)
Maximum Diameter: 1.0 metre

Date Time (UTC) Event
1965 Jul 18 14:38 Zond 3 launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Molniya rocket into approx 164 x 210 kilometre orbit around the Earth at 64.8 degrees inclination - it mission is an engineering test of an interplanetary spacecraft
1965 Jul 19 23:40 Zond 3 passes 9,200 kilometres behind the Moon and takes a series of 25 photographs of the far side and later transmits them to Earth - it then continues into orbit around the Sun
Copyright © Robert Christy, all rights reserved
Reproduction of this web page or any of its content without permission from the website owner is prohibited