Valentina Tereshkova Became The First Woman In Space 54 Years Ago Today:
On June 16, 1963 while aboard Vostok 6 the Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova a Soviet astronaut became the first woman to make the daring journey into space. Today marks a special day in history, especially women's history.
After 71 hours and 48 orbits Tereshkova finally returned to earth. At that time she had spent more time in space than all of our U.S. astronauts combined!
In 1937, Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova in was born into to a peasant family in Maslennikovo, Russia. She worked in a texile factory when she was just 18 and by 22 she was making her first parachute jump which caught the attention of a local aviation club.
The Soviet space program became interested in Tereshkova when they learned of her fearless love for skydiving. The space race between Soviet's and the US in the early 1960 lead to a push for both countries to win “space first."
Because Valentina Tereshkovaan was an accomplished parachutist, it made her well equipped to handle one of the most challenging procedures of a Vostok space flight: the mandatory ejection from the capsule at about 20,000 feet during reentry. In February 1962, she was selected along with three other woman parachutists and a female pilot to begin intensive training to become a cosmonaut.
In 1963, Tereshkova was chosen to take part in the second dual flight in the Vostok program, involving spacecrafts Vostok 5 and Vostok 6. On June 14, 1963, Vostok 5 was launched into space with cosmonaut Valeri Bykovsky aboard. With Bykovsky still orbiting the earth, Tereshkova was launched into space on June 16 aboard Vostok 6. The two spacecrafts had different orbits but at one point came within three miles of each other, allowing the two cosmonauts to exchange brief communications. Tereshkova’s spacecraft was guided by an automatic control system, and she never took manual control. On June 19, after just under three days in space, Vostok 6 reentered the atmosphere, and Tereshkova successfully parachuted to earth after ejecting at 20,000 feet. Bykovsky and Vostok 5 landed safely a few hours later.
After her historic space flight, Valentina Tereshkova received the Order of Lenin and Hero of the Soviet Union awards. In November 1963, she married fellow cosmonaut Andrian Nikolayev, reportedly under pressure from Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who saw a propaganda advantage in the pairing of the two single cosmonauts. The couple made several goodwill trips abroad, had a daughter, and later separated. In 1966, Tereshkova became a member of the Supreme Soviet, the USSR’s national parliament, and she served as the Soviet representative to numerous international women’s organizations and events. She never entered space again, and hers was the last space flight by a female cosmonaut until the 1980s.
The United States screened a group of female pilots in 1959 and 1960 for possible astronaut training but later decided to restrict astronaut qualification to men. The first American woman in space was astronaut and physicist Sally Ride, who served as mission specialist on a flight of the space shuttle Challenger in 1983.
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