June 16, 1963 – Valentina Tereshkova Becomes World’s 1st Female Space Traveler

Valentina Tereskova, a former cosmonaut of the Soviet Union, was the first woman to fly into space at the age of 26 on this day in history. Tereskova was selected from more than 400 applicants. She spent 71 hours on the Vostok 6, orbiting the Earth 48 times. Her three-day mission was the 12th human spaceflight in history, following several Russian Vostok and American Mercury flights. 

Valentina Tereskova via New Mexico Museum of Space History

Before her selection for the Soviet space program, Tereshkova was a textile factory worker and an amateur skydiver. She joined the Air Force as part of the Cosmonaut Corps and was commissioned as an officer after completing her training. After the dissolution of the first group of female cosmonauts in 1969, Tereshkova remained in the space program as a cosmonaut instructor. She later graduated from the Zhukovsky Air Force Engineering Academy and re-qualified for spaceflight but never went to space again. She retired from the Air Force in 1997 having attained the rank of major general.

It took another 20 years after Tereshkova’s flight before the former Soviet Union’s Svetlana Savitskaya became the second woman in space in 1982. Two years later, she earned the spot of being the first woman to walk in space.

This article offers details about other women pioneers in space.

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