In honor of Women’s History Month and last week’s International Women’s Day, we should look at the first woman to leave the surface of our planet, and head to the stars. (Perhaps it should be Interplanetary Women’s Day!)
20 years before Sally Ride became the first American woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman EVER to fly in space! Although not a member of the Soviet military, Tereshkova was granted honorary “Major General” status, after she was selected from more than four hundred volunteer applicants. Major General Tereshkova was trained to pilot the Vostok 6 spacecraft, and, on June 16th, 1963, was launched into space, spending three days orbiting the Earth- an amazing 48 times! (This was more than all of the US Astronaut core, combined!)
Upon her successful return home, Tereshkova continued to be a pioneer. The 26-year-old went on to earn advanced degrees in engineering, including a doctorate in 1977. She was widely regarded as a Soviet heroine, and she held several political offices and received many medals, awards, and honorary citizenships. In 1975, Cosmonaut Tereshkova represented the Soviet Union at the United Nation’s Conference for International Women’s Year. Since 2011 she has served in the Russian legislature, and has been a torchbearer for the 2008 Summer Olympics, as well as a flag bearer during the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Moscow.
Once named the “Greatest Woman of the 20th Century,” Valentina Tereshkova continues to look towards the stars. During her 70th birthday celebration in 2007, she stated she dreams of flying to Mars: “I am ready to fly without coming back.” 1 One can easily imagine this intrepid septuagenarian making history again!
1″First Woman in Space Dreams of Flying to Mars.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 06 Mar. 2007. Web. 08 Mar. 2015.