May 01, 2003

Valentina Tereshkova

On June 16, 1963, 40 years ago, the first female cosmonaut in history, Valentina Tereshkova, launched into space aboard Vostok-6.

Born in 1937 to a peasant family in Yaroslavl region, 18-year-old Tereshkova started her working life in a textile mill and received no special education for her trip into outer space. It was not until 1969, six years after her historic flight, that she graduated as a pilot-cum-cosmonaut and engineer.

In 1961, when the Soviet space program first began considering sending women into space, Tereshkova was just a zealous member of an amateur parachuting club. Since there were few female pilots at that time, women parachutists made an excellent pool to choose from. Tereshkova, who had made 163 parachute jumps, applied to be a cosmonaut and was selected to train with three other women.

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