On June 16, 1963, Soviet Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the very first woman to fly a space mission. During 70+ hours in orbit on Vostok VI, she completed 48 orbits of planet Earth, which was more than all the American astronauts of Project Mercury combined!
Later that same year, the hardy young Tereshkova married cosmonaut Andrian Nikolayev, and their daughter, Elena, was the first child born to parents who both went into space.
Born in 1937, Valentina was only 26 years old at the time of her mission, making her the youngest space traveler up to that date. Training included isolation tests, centrifuge spins, rocket theory, spacecraft engineering, weightless flights, 120 parachute jumps and pilot training in MiG-15UTI jet fighters.
During her 3-day trip on Vostok 6, Tereshkova collected the first data on the female body's reaction to spaceflight; she also conducted experiments, manually maneuvered the capsule, and took photographs of the horizon from space, which were later used to identify aerosol layers within the atmosphere.
Woman of the Century
Tereshkova went on to graduate from the Zhuykosky Air Force Engineering Academy in 1969, and earned a PhD in Technical Science in 1976. She was awarded the title "Hero of the Soviet Union," received two Orders of Lenin, the Joliot-Curie Medal, and was honored with the UN Gold Medal of Peace. Of course, these are just a few of the dozens of awards from many nations.
She even has a crater on the moon named after her! In the year , Russia's "Cinderella of the Stars" was named the "Female Achiever of the 20th Century." To this day, she is still the only woman who ever carried out a solo mission in space.
Major General Valentina Tereshkova
Although there were already "plans on paper" for further space flights by Russian women, it was 19 years until the second, Svetlana Savitskaya, flew in 1982. And yeah, let's pretend the Russians weren't the only Good Ol’ Boys club, considering it took the American space program a further year to put Sally Ride in space on Shuttle Challenger in 1983. Seems hard to believe now, but apparently those guys in the 60s thought they were going somewhere without us.
Good luck with that :)
If we do the math on this one, wasn't this 49 years ago today? Next year will be the 50 year anniversary! So watch the calendar, I am sure Russia will do something very special!