1963: Soviets launch first woman into space

Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova: The First Woman in Space

Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova: The First Woman in Space (USSR)

Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova: The First Woman in Space (USSR)

Colonel-Engineer Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova (March 6, 1937- ) was a Soviet cosmonaut and the first woman in space. She was on the Vostok 5 mission which launched on June 16, 1963, and orbited the Earth 48 times. The flight lasted 2.95 days (=70.8 hours). During her space mission, Tereshkova’s radio call name was “Chaika,” which means “seagull” in Russian.

The Vostok 5 spacecraft was recovered on June 19, 1963, in the Soviet Union. Tereshkova had parachuted from the spacecraft after earth’s atmospheric re-entry; she landed about 380 miles northeast of Karaganda, Kazakhstan. Valentina Tereshkova was given the title “Hero of the Soviet Union,” received the Order of Lenin, and was honored with the United Nations Gold Medal of Peace. She never flew in space again.

Stamp in homour of first woamn in spaceTereshkova had been an expert in parachuting and a factory worker before she wrote to the Soviet space program, volunteering her service. She and the other candidates to be in the first woman in space were given extensive testing and interviews (beginning in December 1961). Tereshkova and Tatyana Torchillova were chosen in May 1963, to train for the Vostok 6 flight. Tereshkova was the final choice.

On November 3, 1963, Tereshkova married another cosmonaut (Andrian Nikolayev, who also went into space). They had a daughter, Elena Andrionovna, who was born in 1964; Elena (now a doctor in Russia) was the first child born to parents who both went into space. Tereshkova went on to graduate from the Zhuykosky Air Force Engineering Academy in 1969, and in 1976, earned a degree in Technical Science.

A former textile worker from the Soviet Union has become the first woman in space. On June 16, 1963, aboard Vostok 6, Soviet Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova becomes the first woman to travel into space. After 48 orbits and 71 hours, she returned to earth, having spent more time in space than all U.S. astronauts combined to that date.

Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova was born to a peasant family in Maslennikovo, Russia, in 1937. She began work at a textile factory when she was 18, and at age 22 she made her first parachute jump under the auspices of a local aviation club. Her enthusiasm for skydiving brought her to the attention of the Soviet space program, which sought to put a woman in space in the early 1960s as a means of achieving another “space first” before the United States. As an accomplished parachutist, Tereshkova was 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.

Valentina Tereshkova

Valentina enjoyed a light-hearted conversation with Nikita Khrushchev

Lieutenant Valentina Tereshkova, 26, was the fifth Russian cosmonaut to go into the Earth’s orbit when her spaceship Vostok VI was launched at 1230 Moscow time.

Moscow Television broadcast the first pictures of the elated blonde – code-named Seagull – ninety minutes later.

One of the main purposes of her mission is to attempt the first docking manoeuvre with another spaceship.

Colonel Valery Bykovsky was completing his 32nd orbit in the Vostok V – launched two days ago – when Lt Tereshkova hurtled into space from the secret Russian launch pad in Baikonur, central Asia.

At one time the two spacecrafts – which were in radio contact with each other as well as the ground – were only three miles apart, but they are reported to be drifting further apart.

Khrushchev’s acclaim

Russian Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev had a radio conversation with the female cosmonaut.

He congratulated her on her achievement and spoke of his “fatherly pride” for her.

By 2000 BST Ms Tereshkova had completed 23 circuits of the globe – one more than the longest-flying US spaceman, Gordon Cooper – at a distance of between 114 miles (183km) and 145 miles (232km) with an average 88.3 minutes for each orbit.

Thousands of jubilant women gathered in Red Square, Moscow, to celebrate the occasion.

A special issue of Soviet newspaper Pravda said Ms Tereshkova had dreamed of going into space as soon as she heard about the first man in space, Colonel Yuri Gagarin, in April 1961.

Ms Tereshkova – an amateur parachutist – joined the space programme last March.

Col Gagarin said she was popular with the other cosmonauts and their wives and described her “kind eyes and good-natured smile”.

Russian scientists also hope to analyse the comparative effects of space travel on a man and a woman.

In Context
Lt Tereshkova and Col Bykovsky landed safely by parachute two days later in Kazakhstan, several hundred miles from where they had taken off. Ms Tereshkova had completed 49 orbits of the Earth – 1,250,000 miles – in two days, 22 hours and fifty minutes. Mr Bykovsky set a new record for time in space, completing 82 orbits – 2,060,000 miles – in four days, 23 hours and 54 minutes, 25 hours and 32 minutes longer than the previous record holder.

Ms Tereshkova was feted by the Soviet leadership and became active in the Communist Party. She never returned to space.

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