Women in Space: An Overview of Female Astronauts and Cosmonauts

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Meeting the Requirements

Many people have a dream of walking in space some time. But becoming an astronaut is a very challenging job, as qualifying for the space program always was a serious and difficult task. The history of female astronauts clearly suggests that the female space program training was started way back in 1950. Many woman pilots, often the best in their class, were selected and trained to meet all the challenges. It was believed that females were smaller and lighter in weight than men, and hence were recommended the most.

First to Be Considered

The astronaut fitness test held in the early 1960s opened the gates to a lot of female astronauts and many of them started to believe that their dream of walking in space could really come true. Geraldine Cobb, in 1960, was the first woman who qualified for the astronaut fitness test. It was really unfortunate for her because in 1961 the women’s space program was cancelled by NASA for security reasons. But, this was not the end of female space exploration program as 1963 proved to be a historic year for female astronauts.

Start of an Era

On June 16, 1963, Valentina Tereshkova, from the Soviet Union was honoured as the first woman in space. For nearly 20 years she remained the only woman “to reach the stars”. But later the the process of “space feminization” started and to this date many female astronauts from different parts of world have achieved great success in various space exploration programs.

Other Women in Space

The list is quite long, but here are few names that created history in the female astronaut world. It started in 1963 when Valentina Tereshkova was selected as the first woman to go in space. It was approximately 20 years later when another Russian female astronaut, Svetlana Savitskaya, in 1982 was able to explore space quite successfully as the first woman to walk in space. She actually walked in space for almost 4 hours. Later in the same year, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. Kathryn Sullivan, another American female astronaut was honoured in 1984 as the first American woman to walk in space. Since 1984 many women - such as Helen Sharman from Great Britain, Roberta Bondar from Canada, Chiaki Mukai from Japan - have been to orbit and contributed their part to the process of space exploration.

More to come

In the next few articles we will present bios of notable women from different countries who have visited space.

This post is part of the series: Women in Space - The History of Female Astronauts

Space exploration is not only about Yuri Gagarin, John Glenn and Neil Armstrong. Valentina Tereshkova was the first women in space, and since then many women have left the earth to reach orbit. This series is about those notable women, presenting their biographies and other interesting facts.

  1. Women in space - History of Female Astronauts
  2. First Woman in Space - Valentina Tereshkova
  3. Svetlana Savitskaya – First Woman to Walk In Space
  4. Sally Ride – The First American Woman in Space
  5. Kathryn Sullivan – The First American Woman to Walk in Space