Valentina Tereshkova the first woman in space

Valentina Tereshkova was born on March 6, 1937 in Bolshoye Maslennikovo, a village in western Russia. As a young woman, she worked in a textile mill and parachuted as a hobby. It was her parachuting experience that led to her being chosen, in 1962, for training as a cosmonaut in the Soviet space program. During the late 1950s and 1960s, the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union escalated for space travel supremacy. The competitiveness between the two nations for “one upping” achievements was fierce and the Soviets were determined to be the first to send a woman into space.

Tereshkova was the first woman in space, aboard the Vostok 6. She was selected from over 400 candidates, and beat out 4 other finalists for the opportunity to do so in 1963. Four women were chosen to become cosmonauts, but only Tereshkova actually went into space. On June 16, 1963, Vostok 6 was launched, with Tereshkova aboard. The first woman to travel in space, she called out, “Hey sky, take off your hat. I’m on my way!” as the craft took off. Tereshkova orbited the earth 48 times in 70.8 hours—just under three days. (By way of comparison, Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, orbited the earth once; and the four American astronauts who flew before Tereshkova orbited a total of 36 times.) While she was orbiting, she spoke with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who said,

“Valentina, I am very happy and proud that a girl from the Soviet Union is the first woman to fly into space and to operate such cutting-edge equipment.”

Valentina Tereshkova made 48 orbits of Earth. She spent almost three days in space. In November of 1963, Valentina Tereshkova married Andrian Nikolayev. He was also a cosmonaut. Their daughter, Elena, was born in 1964. Elena was the first child born to a mother and a father who had both traveled in space.

Valentina Tereshkova never made a second trip into space. She became an important member of the Communist Party and a representative of the Soviet government.