June 16: When Valentina Tereshkova became first woman to go to space 58 yrs ago
June 16 has an important place in the history of space endeavours made by the humans, as Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman to go to space on this day. She undertook the historic flight in 1963.
Tereshkova became a national heroine at the tender age of 26 when she made that flight.
She was born to Vladimir Aksyonovich Tereshkov, a sergeant in the Soviet Army, and Yelena Fyodorovna Tereshkova in Yaroslavl Oblast, Russia, on March 6, 1937.
Tereshkova’s father died in the Finnish Winter War during World War II, when she was two years old. After that, her mother moved the family to Yaroslavl, seeking better employment opportunity and took up a job at the Krasny Perekop cotton mill.
Tereshkova enrolled at school in 1945 at the age of eight. In 1953, she left school and began working but continued education by correspondence courses.
Tereshkova developed interest in parachuting quite early and trained in skydiving at the local aeroclub, making her first jump at age 22, on May 21, 1959.
Thanks to her training in parachuting, Tereshkova was among the five women who were selected for the cosmonaut programme in 1961. After Yuri Gagarin’s historic space trip, the Soviet government was keen to send women to space. And Tereshkova fitted the bill.
She attended an extensive 18-month programme wherein the candidates learned the nuances of space travel.
She was chosen to pilot Vostok 6. Cosmonaut Valery Bykovsky took off on Vostok 5 on June 14, 1963 and two days later, Tereshkova too blasted off.
She logged more than 70 hours in space and made 48 orbits of the Earth. On June 19, 1963, Tereshkova’s spacecraft re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere and she successfully parachuted for 20,000 feet.
A few years ago, Tereshkova expressed her willingness to make a one-way trip to Mars. She said that Mars is her favourite planet. The Russian cosmonaut had been part of the group who studied the possibility of going to the Red Planet.