Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova
COSMONAUT | ENGINEER | HEROINE
First woman in space
“Once you’ve been into space, you appreciate how small and fragile the Earth is”
I was born on March 6, 1937, in the Volga River village of Maslennikovo in Russia.
My dad was killed in WWII and my mum was a worker in a cotton factory. I was raised in economically difficult conditions and only started school at the age of 10 as I helped my mother at home caring for my siblings.
In 1955, I joined my mother and sister as a loom operator at the cotton mill. Meanwhile, I took correspondence courses and graduated from the Light Industry Technical School. As a dedicated communist, I joined the mill’s Komsomol (Young Communist League) and soon advanced to the Communist Party.
In 1959, I joined the Yaroslavl Air Sports Club and became a skilled amateur parachutist.
Inspired by the flight of Yuri Gagarin (1934–1968), the first man in space, I volunteered for the Soviet space program. Although I had no experience as a pilot, I achieved 126 parachute jumps and I became a cosmonaut in 1961. At the time the Soviet space program was looking for people with parachuting experience, because cosmonauts had to parachute from their capsules after they came back into Earth’s atmosphere.
I was the first woman in space, orbiting the Earth forty-eight times in Vostok VI in 1963. I orbited the Earth for almost three days.
I was chosen for several political positions from 1966 to 1989 during the Soviet political era.
Later, I toured the world promoting science and feminism.
A crater was named after me, Tereshkova crater, on the far side of our Moon.