Astronomy and Space


Who was the first woman in space?

Valentina V. Tereshkova-Nikolaeva (1937–), a Soviet cosmonaut, was the first woman in space. She was aboard the Vostok 6, launched June 16, 1963. She spent three days circling Earth, completing 48 orbits. Although she had little cosmonaut training, she was an accomplished parachutist and was especially fit for the rigors of space travel.

The U.S. space program did not put a woman in space until 20 years later when, on June 18, 1983, Sally K. Ride (1951–) flew aboard the space shuttle Challenger mission STS–7. In 1987, she moved to the administrative side of NASA and was instrumental in issuing the “Ride Report,” which recommended future missions and direction for NASA. She retired from NASA in August 1987 to become a research fellow at Stanford University after serving on the presidential commission that investigated the Challenger disaster in 1986. She was a physics professor at the University of California San Diego until 2001 when she founded Sally Ride Science. The company is dedicated to supporting girls’ and boys’ interests in science, math, and technology by showing science is fun with a variety of programs.


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