Valentina Tereshkova was born on the 6th of March, 1937, in Yaroslavl, Russia. She was born in a poor peasant family and hence had to work in a textile mill at the young age of 18. She was a hard worker and dreamt of becoming a cosmonaut from her young age. At the early age of 18, she joined an amateur parachuting club and took one step towards fulfilling her dream.
The Training Session
At the age of 24, she applied to become a cosmonaut. In 1961, the Soviet space program planned to send female astronauts in the space and the search began to find the best candidate who can meet the challenges. Valentina Tereshkova has been selected for the cosmonaut training session in 1962 along with three other women. The hard training program allowed her to become a professional cosmonaut and the stage was set for the historic event. The intensive training included pilot training, parachute jumps, spacecraft engineering, and many complicated tests to help survive in space.
After a training session of about 15 months, Valentina Tereshkova had been chosen as the first woman to go to space. Among other reasons, her image as a “common girl” – as well as the fact that her father died as WWII hero, contributed to this choice. It was like a dream come true moment in her life and she made up her mind to meet all the challenges in the space exploration program. On June the the 16th, 1963, Valentina Tereshkova created history by orbiting the earth 48 times in Vostok VI. Saying “Sky, take off your hat!”, she entered the vessel that was launched into the orbit. She stayed for almost 3 days in space and proved that female cosmonauts are also capable of stepping into space as men. The photographs of the horizon taken by her during the mission have helped scientists to study the aerosol layer within the atmosphere of Earth.
A Formidable Career
Valentina Tereshkova never looked behind even after her flight. She continued to study hard and finally graduated as a cosmonaut engineer in 1969. Her reputation allowed her to hold many important positions in Soviet politics. She was an important member of the Soviet government and was appointed a member of the World Peace Council in 1966. She was honoured with many prestigious titles such as deputy to the Supreme Soviet, membership of the Communist Party, Vice President of the International Woman’s Democratic Federation, and was the President of the Soviet-Algerian Friendship society. While her political career came to an end after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Tereshkova never lost her prestige. She recently celebrated her 70th birthday and expressed a desire to visit Mars – “even if it will be a one way ticket”.
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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.