Robotic achievements in the shadow of Apollo
The flight of Apollo 8 in December 1968 marked the beginning of the end for the Soviet Union's campaign to put cosmonauts on the Moon. The Zond circumlunar flight test series had been plagued by problems. Even the successful flight of Zond 5 suffered so many subsystem anomalies that engineers were very reluctant to trust a spacecraft to a manned mission. The crash of Zond 6 made beating Apollo 8 to the Moon almost impossible, and the circumlunar program endured a further setback on January 20, 1969, when the next Zond test flight fell victim to yet another launcher failure. Any chance that cosmonauts could reach the Moon in competition with the Americans was dealt a severe blow on February 21, 1969, when the counterpart of the Saturn V, the N-1, failed spectacularly on its maiden flight.
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