Who was the first woman in space?

First Humans in Space Read more from
Chapter Space Programs

The Soviet-born Valentina Tereshkova (1937–) was an accomplished amateur parachutist by 1961, when she applied to join the Soviet space program. She was one of the first four female cosmonauts selected for the program, and in 1963 she piloted Vostok 6 for three days, orbiting Earth forty-eight times. During the flight, a smiling Tereshkova was shown on Soviet and European television, signaling that all was well. “I see the horizon,” she said. “A light blue, a beautiful band.”

Tereshkova returned to a heroine’s welcome, and was awarded the title “Hero of the Soviet Union.” She toured the world, and eventually attained the rank of colonel in the Soviet Air Force. She also completed a technical science degree, and served as an aerospace engineer in the Soviet space program. She entered politics, and became a high-ranking official in the Soviet government. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Tereshkova chaired the Russian Association of International Cooperation. She married fellow cosmonaut Andrian Nikolayev (1929–2004), and their daughter Elena was born in 1964—the first person ever born to parents who had both been in space!


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