Valentina Tereshkova, Legendary Soviet Cosmonaut and the First Woman in Space Turns 80

A Journal of People report

Valentina Tereshkova. Source: Internet

Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman to conquer space, celebrated her 80th birthday on March 6, 2017. She is the only woman in the world to go on a space flight alone. Her flight into space, at age 26, is still the record for youngest female astronaut/cosmonaut.

In June 1963 Tereshkova spent two days, 22 hours and 50 minutes in space, orbiting the Earth 48 times piloting the Vostok 6 spacecraft.
Her flight occurred two years after Yuri Gagarin, the Soviet cosmonaut, became the first human in space.
Valentina Tereshkova is the first female astronaut in history and the first woman in Russia with the rank of a Major-General. Currently she is serving as a Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on the federal and local level.On June 18, 1983, the Space Shuttle Challenger launched Sally Ride – the first female American astronaut – into space. But that came a full 20 years after Soviet Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova’s pioneering voyage.
Tereshkova has been continuously popular and regarded as a national hero by every Russian and Soviet leader.
It was her expertise in skydiving, obtained through the local Aeroclub starting at age 22, that led to her selection.
In cosmonaut history, only Yuri Gagarin and Alexey Leonov are more revered.
When journalists questioned the hardiness of Sally Ride’s body for spaceflight, Tereshkova publicly rebuked such sexist claims.
Honorarily inducted into the Air Force so she could join the Cosmonaut Corps, she obtained the rank of Major General by her 1997 retirement.
Tereshkova is still politically active today. A prominent political figure, she still serves in the State Duma within the Russian legislature.
In 2013, she declared she’d still lead a one-way trip to Mars, if the opportunity arose.
On her birthday, Valentina Tereshkova recalled tense moments of her pioneering mission. She spoke about a technical glitch that could have left her stranded in space.
“When the spacecraft reached the orbit, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to return to Earth because the ship was programmed to move to a higher orbit instead of deorbiting,” Tereshkova said in remarks broadcast by Channel 1 television. “I reported the situation to the mission control, they told me how to change the parameters and everything went on without trouble.”
Soviet space officials started planning for a space mission by a woman soon after Yuri Gagarin became the first human to fly to space on April, 12 1961, seeing it as a way to cement the nation’s lead in a race for space supremacy against the U.S.
Tereshkova, a textile factory worker who liked parachute jumps, was chosen for the flight after a rigorous selection from hundreds of candidates. While heading to the launch pad, she told her relatives that she was going to attend a parachute competition — a reflection of deep secrecy that surrounded the Soviet space program.
The three-day mission made her an instant global celebrity and a poster figure for Soviet space glory. Tereshkova received a hero’s welcome after the flight and was showered with awards and honorary titles.
“It was hard, but we realized that we were working to make the country’s glory shine and prevent the competitors from thrusting ahead,” Tereshkova said Monday. “It was a great happiness to be the first in space.”
Her birthday led the news on national television.
President Vladimir Putin hosted Tereshkova at the Kremlin, praising her as “a role model for us and a symbol of service to the Fatherland.”
He presented Tereshkova with a painting of seagulls over the Volga River, a reference to her call sign Chaika (Seagull) during her mission in June 1963.
“I often see my flight in my dreams,” she said in televised remarks.
Fellow lawmakers greeted her at a photo exhibition about her flight in the lower house, the State Duma.

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