Valentina Vladimirovina Tereshkova - The First Woman in Space

Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova was born on the 6th of March 1937 in a small village called Bolshoye Maslennikovo. She was the first woman to fly in space on the 16th of June 1963, aboard Vostok 6 and later retired as a Soviet cosmonaut. Before she pursued this career she worked in a textile factory and later studied engineering and trained in parachuting. She made her first jump at the local Aeroclub at the age of 22 years in 1959.

In 1961, after Yuri Gagarin’s flight the head Soviet rocket engineer, Sergey Korolyov, came up with the idea to put a woman into space. Valentina Tereshkova was selected to join the cosmonaut corps in 1962 with many other applicants. Out of the four hundred only five women were chosen that being Tatiana Kuznetsova, Irina Solovyova, Valentina Ponomareva, Zhanna Yerkina and Tereshkova. In order to qualify for this position they all had to be parachutists under the age of thirty, under 70 Kg’s in weight and under 170 cm tall.

What made Tereshkova a particularly worthy candidate was because of her “proletarian” background and due to her father dying as a hero fighting against the Nazis. Weightless flights, centrifuge tests, isolation tests, spacecraft engineering, rocket theory, pilot training in MiG-15UTI jet fighters and 120 parachute jumps was all combined into their training. With all this training it still did not mean that the women were equal to their male counterparts, the Soviet leadership considered women flying into space a purely propaganda move. Nikita Khrushchev was the one to make the final decision and out of the five he chose Tereshkova to be the first women to fly.

Tereshkova flew Vostok 6 on 16th of June 1963 becoming the first woman and civilian to fly in space. She spent around three days in space, more time then all the flight times of American astronauts, orbiting the earth 48 times. Vostok 6 was the last Vostok flight and though it had been planned that the other four in Tereshkova’s cosmonaut group would fly they never got the chance. It was only nineteen years later that the second women, Svetlana Savitskaya flew into space.

Tereshkova in more recent times pursued a career in politics but after the Soviet Union collapsed she lost her political office. Her prestige as the first women in space never faded and is still viewed as a Russian heroine. Since she retired from politics she now and again appears at space-related events and is quiet happy at being away from the limelight.


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