NASA HISTORY: Soviet Valentina Tereshkova Became First Woman To Fly In Space
By NASA // February 5, 2017
COSMONAUT MADE 48 orbits of the Earth
ABOVE VIDEO: The first women in space, Valentina Tereshkova, shouted, “Hey sky, take off your hat, I’m on my way!” Tereshkova’s flight lasted nearly 71 hour. (Soviet Space Progam Video)
BREVARD COUNTY • CAPE CANVERAL, FLORIDA – Fifty-three years ago, 26-year-old Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman to fly in space.
The U.S.S.R recruited Tereshkova, a textile-factory worker, because of her experience as an amateur parachutist. One of the most challenging aspects of a Vostok spaceflight was the ejection from the capsule before landing (at 20,000 feet above the ground).
The Vostok capsules did not have the rocket engines used on later Soviet spacecraft that allowed safe landings of the crew inside the capsule.
Tereshkova was well equipped to handle the challenge with her extensive parachuting experience. In 1962, just a year before her flight, she (and four other female candidates) began intensive training to become cosmonauts.
As Tereshkova’s Vostok 6 spacecraft blasted off she shouted, “Hey sky, take off your hat, I’m on my way!”
During Tereshkova’s nearly 71 hour flight, she made 48 orbits of the Earth, passed within three miles of Vostok 5, which was launched two days prior and piloted by cosmonaut Valeri Bykovski.
Tereshkova re-entered the atmosphere on June 19, three days after her initial launch, ejected from her capsule, and successfully parachuted back to Earth.
Vostok 6 was Valentina Tereshkova’s first and only flight. She never returned to space, but went on to become a member of the USSR’s national parliament, the head of the Soviet Women’s Committee, a doctor of Technical Science and the winner of United Nations Gold Medal of Peace.
It took nearly 20 years for another woman to enter space.
Fellow cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya launched in August 1982, just prior to American astronaut Sally Ride in 1983. Although many women have now followed in her footsteps, Valentina Tereshkova remains the only woman to have conducted a solo space flight and is one of only four Soviet/Russian women to have flown in space.
Tereshkova is now 79 years old and lives in a house topped with a seagull weather-vane in honor of her Vostok 6 call signal: “Seagull.”
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