Valentina Tereshkova, Soviet cosmonaut, First Woman astronaut in Space

Updated: May 1

Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman to go into space when she flew Vostok 6 on June 16, 1963. After a two-hour countdown, Vostok 6 launched faultlessly, and Tereshkova became the first woman in space. She spent almost three days in space and orbited Earth 48 times. That was her only trip into space.

Valentina Tereshkova. First Woman astronaut in Space

After Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space in 1961, Tereshkova volunteered for the Soviet space program. Although she did not have any experience as a pilot, she was accepted into the program because of her 126 parachute jumps. At the time, cosmonauts had to parachute from their capsules seconds before they hit the ground on returning to Earth. Astronaut Valentina Tereshkova been selected from more than 400 applicants and five finalists to pilot Vostok 6 on 16 June 1963. The Soviet space program had not allowed the first woman in space to be an American.


Under the direction of Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev, four women were selected to be trained for a special woman-in-space program. Of the four women selected, only Valentina Tereshkova completed a space mission, piloting the Vostok 6. Tereshkova is also the only woman ever to have been on a solo space mission. With a single flight, completing 48 orbits, she logged more flight time (70.8 hours) than the combined times of all American astronauts who had flown before that date.

Tereshkova launched aboard the Vistok 6, June 16, 1963

It was to be a dual mission. Cosmonaut Valeriy Bykovsky launching first in Vostok 5 on June 14, 1963. Two days later, Tereshkova launched. On the morning of 16 June 1963, Tereshkova and her backup Irina Solovyova were both dressed in spacesuits and taken to the launch pad by bus. Following the tradition set by Gagarin, Tereshkova also urinated on the bus tire, becoming the first woman to do so. The two spacecraft took different orbits and came within 3 miles (5 km) of each other. Tereshkova did not reply during several communications sessions. To this day it is not known if she was paralyzed with fear, or if there was an equipment failure. On June 19th both cosmonauts returned to earth.

On June 1963, Soviet Union leader Khrushchev announced that both the cosmonauts were awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union medal. All the Soviet cosmonauts toured extensively, but Tereshkova received the most requests to visit foreign nations. She left the program shortly after her flight, and married another cosmonaut, Andriyan Nikolayev, on November 3, 1963. In 1969 the Soviet Union dissolved the first group of female cosmonauts.