Updated date:

First Woman in Space: Valentina Tereshkova

Readmikenow enjoys writing about unique and interesting people. He likes to learn about individuals who live or have lived unusual lives.

Valentina Tereshkova

Valentina Tereshkova

Valentina Tereshkova will always be remembered as the world's first female to be on a space mission. She is also the youngest woman to have been in space and is still the only female to have been on a solo space mission. This successful space mission took place on June 16, 1963, aboard the Vostok 6 space rocket. She spent 71 hours in space and was able to orbit the earth 48 times.

Early Life

On March 6, 1937, Valentina Tereshkova was born in a village on the Volga River called Bolshoye Maslennikovo. Her parents migrated there from Belarus. Tereshkova's father was a sergeant in command of a tank for the Soviet Army. He died during World War II fighting in the Finnish Winter War. When she was two years old, Tereshkova's family moved to Yaroslavl. Tereshkova started school when she was 10 and graduated when she was 17. This is when she started working at a tire factory, and she then worked at a textile mill. Tereshkova took correspondence courses and in 1960, she completed a course from the Light Industry Technical School.

Parachuting and Communist Youth League

Tereshkova became interested in parachuting after seeing people parachute out of airplanes. She went to a local Aeroclub and was trained in skydiving. On May 21, 1959, at the age of 22, Tereshkova made her first jump. She kept this a secret from her family. In 1960, She joined the local Communist Youth League. Tereshkova served as the organization's secretary in 1960 and 1961. In 1962, she became a member of the Communist Party.

Soviet Female Space Program

When the Soviet space program started looking for female candidates, Tereshkova started to think about space travel. She had no previous desire to go into space. Her success at skydiving would be a major contributing factor to her being selected as a cosmonaut. The Soviet space program granted five females the opportunity to start cosmonaut training in 1963. The desire to have a Soviet woman in space before an American caused the female cosmonauts to begin training before the men. All the women had to be less than 30 years old, under 5 feet 7 inches tall, and weigh less than 154 pounds. In January 1962, there were 400 candidates being considered. After initial screenings, only 58 still met all the requirements. On February 16, 1962, Tereshkova and four other candidates were asked to join the Soviet female cosmonaut corps.

Valentina Tereshkova during space training

Valentina Tereshkova during space training

Training

The female cosmonaut training involved centrifuge tests, isolation tests, decompression chamber testing, thermo-chamber tests as well as pilot training in MiG-15UTI jet fighters. Tereshkova also had water recovery training at sea. During this training, several motorboats would agitate the waters to simulate rough conditions. Tereshkova and her group spent several months in basic training and were required to pass an intense examination to complete the training. All the women were given commissions in the regular Soviet Air Force. In December 1962, Tereshkova and the other members of her group were made junior lieutenants in the Soviet Air Force.

Chosen

On May 21, 1963, the Soviet State Space Commission nominated Tereshkova to pilot Vostok 6 and be the first female in space. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev saw the propaganda potential in nominating Tereshkova. She was the daughter of a man who was a Soviet soldier and had died fighting in a war. Tereshkova was promoted to lieutenant prior to the flight and then to captain during the flight.

Valentina Tereshkova being launched into space

Valentina Tereshkova being launched into space

Launch

On the morning of June 16, 1963, Tereshkova was dressed in a spacesuit and taken to the launch pad by bus. The Soviet cosmonauts had a tradition of urinating on the bus tire before being launched into space. Tereshkova was the first female to participate in this tradition. She completed the life support and communication checks. Tereshkova was then sealed into the Vostok 6 spacecraft. The launch went perfectly. She was now the first woman in space.

Valentina Tereshkova during space flight

Valentina Tereshkova during space flight

Time in Space

During her time in space, Tereshkova took pictures of the horizon and maintained a flight log. This provided important information to identify aerosol layers in the Earth's atmosphere. Her single flight enabled Tereshkova to log more flight time than all the American astronauts who had previously been in space. During most of the flight, she experienced physical discomfort as well as nausea. Tereshkova was still able to be in space for 2 days, 22 hours, and 50 minutes. She ejected from her space capsule about four miles above the earth during Vostok's descent. She made a perfect parachute landing at 8:20 am on June 19, 1963, in Kazakhstan. Tereshkova struggled to control the parachute because of strong winds but landed safely. Tereshkova had dinner with the local villagers who had helped her out of her spacesuit.

Valentina Tereshkova with villagers after landing

Valentina Tereshkova with villagers after landing

Valentina Tereshkova with Russian Premier Khrushchev

Valentina Tereshkova with Russian Premier Khrushchev

Order of Lenin

On June 22, 1963, Russian Premier Khrushchev greeted Tereshkova. In front of thousands, the Premier told Tereshkova she would be awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union medal. She gave a speech from on top of Lenin's Tomb in Moscow's Red Square. Tereshkova asked the government to place a monument where her father was killed in action, and it was done. She was also awarded the Order of Lenin. Many people around the world wanted to meet and speak with Tereshkova. Between 1963 and 1970, she made trips to over 41 countries.

Valentina Tereshkova greeting crowds of Soviet citizens

Valentina Tereshkova greeting crowds of Soviet citizens

Valentina Tereshkova with all her awards

Valentina Tereshkova with all her awards

Recommended for You

Disbanded

In 1968, Tereshkova was appointed the leader of the Committee for Soviet Women. In October 1969, she graduated with honors from Zhukovsky Air Force Engineering Academy. During this year, the team of Soviet women cosmonaut program was disbanded. There would not be another woman cosmonaut in space until 1982 when Svetlana Savitskaya went into space.

Valentina Tereshkova with Russian president Vladimir Putin

Valentina Tereshkova with Russian president Vladimir Putin

Today

Valentina Tereshkova has been a lawmaker in the lower chamber of the Russian parliament since 2011. She is 84 years old.

Sources

Wikipedia

Britannica

Biography

Encyclopedia of World Biography

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Readmikenow

Comments

Readmikenow (author) on March 10, 2021:

Miebakagh, thanks.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on March 10, 2021:

Her achievement shows that women deserves respect. Thanks for the interesting article.

Readmikenow (author) on March 10, 2021:

Pam, I agree. She accomplished something amazing.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on March 10, 2021:

This is a very good article about Valentina Tereshkova. She was sure one brave woman. I cannot imaging parachuting out 4 miles above the earth. I guess brave is really an understatement! Thanks for this excellent information, Mike.

Related Articles