15 September 1968 - Zond 5 probe completes first unmanned Moon orbit
On 15 September 1968 the Zond 5, a Russian probe was the first to complete a Moon orbit, passing the surface at 2000 km altitude.
On board were two troutoises, meals worms and fruit flies. They all sruvived the .
The probe was expected to come back to Earth and land in Russia.
And on September 21, it water landed (crashed?) in the Indian Ocean. The weather on site was bad an a US military vessel, the McMorris was close. They were able to take some pictures and chemical and debris samples from the water.
The recovery vessel, the Borovichi, was also close, located and recovered the probe in less than 10 hours.
All animals survived.
Being so close, the US saw what the Soviets were doing and decided to sepeed things up. Instead of testing the lunar module in high Earth orbit, they launched the Apollo 8 in December 1968. That brought us the first manned Moon orbit, and the first photographs of Earth from space.
The Soviet lunar exploration craft Zond 5, being loaded on the Vasilli Golovnin in Russia, 1968.