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SPACE 16 Jun 2013 Valentina Tereshkova made history 50 years ago
Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova made history on 16 Jun 1963 as the first women and first civilian in Space. Sent there on Vostok

June 16, 2013 - NULL

SPACE 16 Jun 2013 Valentina Tereshkova made history 50 years ago
Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova made history on 16 Jun 1963 as the first women and first civilian in Space. Sent there on Vostok 6, she completed 48 orbits in three days. The feat led to a distinguished political career and some 42 national and international honors. Tereshkova, who turns 76 in 2013, is one of her homeland's most revered figures. She can expect to be lionized on the anniversary, which is a reminder the the Soviet Union's was "first-past-the-post" in the early years of the so

SPACE 16 Jun 2013 Valentina Tereshkova made history 50 years ago
Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova made history on 16 Jun 1963 as the first women and first civilian in Space. Sent there on Vostok 6, she completed 48 orbits in three days. The feat led to a distinguished political career and some 42 national and international honors. Tereshkova, who turns 76 in 2013, is one of her homeland's most revered figures. She can expect to be lionized on the anniversary, which is a reminder the the Soviet Union's was "first-past-the-post" in the early years of the so-called Space Race.

Tereshkova was named a Hero of the Soviet Union and was twice awarded the Order of Lenin.

Her achievement represents a milestone in the intense contest for the conquest of Space between the Soviet Union and the United States. The Soviets won the first rounds, starting with the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, on 4 Oct 1957. On 12 Apr, 1961, Yuri Gagarin lifted off from Baikonur in the Vostok I capsule, becoming the first human in space. The Soviets also launched the first space station, with Salyut 1.

After Tereshkova's feat, the Soviets lost interest in launching females into Space: the list of 57 female spacefarers includes only three Soviet or post-Soviet women. The female cosmonaut program was disbanded in 1969, and it wasn't until the early 1980's that the second female cosmonaut group was recruited. That was seen as a response to news that the United States was training female astronauts.

Tereshkova's flight, during which she logged more flight time than the combined times of all American astronauts who had flown before that date, was followed by another significant milestone for women spacefarers: on July 25, 1984, Salyut 7 cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya became the first woman to perform a space walk. She was outside the space capsule for 3 hours and 35 minutes.

With the US Moon landing and the NASA shuttle program, the United States caught up rapidly, and, arguably, outstripped the Soviets, and later Russia, in Space achievements. If sheer numbers count for anything, the United States has won the "woman-in-space" stakes: 45 of the 57 female spacefarers to date have been American women.

But the numbers can't take the shine from Tereshkova's flight. She was selected out of more than 400 applicants to pilot the Vostok 6. During her three-day mission, she performed various tests on herself to collect data on the female body's reaction to spaceflight.

Before being recruited as a cosmonaut, Tereshkova was a textile factory assembly worker and an amateur parachutist. It was her parachuting expertise that attracted the eye of the Space program directors.

She didn't fade into obscurity after the flight. She earned a doctorate in engineering, and served on the USSR Supreme Soviet from 1966 until 1991. Tereshkova lost none of her prestige after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and held prominent political posts until her retirement. On 5 Apr 2008, she was chosen to carry the torch in the 2008 Summer Olympics torch relay in Saint Petersburg. (WRITTEN JUL 2012)

RELATED READING:

Valentina Tereshkova (Encyclopedia Britannica)
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/587896/Valentina-Tereshkova

Soviet Space history (Encyclopedia Astronautica)
http://www.astronautix.com/articles/sovstory.htm

Date written/update: 2013-06-16