The name of Valentina Tereshkova probably doesn’t ring a bell, and that’s a shame. We’ve all heard of Neil Armstrong and his legendary first trip to the Moon, but do not know much of this Russian woman, a cotton mill worker in Yaroslavl, who made history in the 1960s, at 26 years of age, by becoming the first woman to fly into space. This achievement further showed that women have the same physical and psychological resilience as men. That was important then as it is important now.
The selection process was not easy, but her experience as a parachutist helped her become one of 400 candidates. That’s how she joined the female cosmonaut corps, an exclusive club that, a year and a half later, chose her to pilot the Vostok 6 mission. Heris ship took off from the Baikonur cosmodrome on June 16th, 1963. Being a woman, however, wasn’t the only reason why Valentina set a major milestone in history.
On the one hand, she was the first civilian person ever to travel into space. And on the other hand, she did it alone! We may believe we have progressed in gender equality, but over half a century has passed and no woman has ever flown a mission without a companion again. In addition, Tereshkova set a new a record by fully orbiting 48 times around Earth.