The First Woman in Space
“Now that a man has gone into space, it will be a woman’s turn.” These words, spoken by her mother shortly after the first successful Russian manned space flight, would prove to alter the life of young Valentina Tereshkova.
Born on March 6, l937 in a small town in Western Russia, Valentina was one of three children raised by a young Russian widow. At 16, she started working at a textile factory, and soon became interested in parachute jumping. Valentina had long been fascinated with the sky and flying. Because of this interest, she started and headed a parachute club at the factory.
After Gagarin’s historic flight in 1962, the Soviet Union opened its space program to volunteers, and Valentina eagerly volunteered. Selected because of her parachuting experience, Valentina found the mental and physical training necessary for space flight both grueling and difficult. Determined, she persisted, and was launched into space on 6-13-63, on the Vostok 6. She was the first, and thus far only, woman to make a solo flight into space.
“Once you’ve been in space, you appreciate how small and fragile the Earth is.” After her 3-day flight, Valentina returned safely to the Earth. Although a second flight was later proposed for 1965, it was cancelled and Valentina never flew into space again.
Shortly after her flight in 1963, she married another cosmonaut, Andrian Nikolayev. Nikita Krusheve himself attended the ceremony, and it was said that he had encouraged and arranged the marriage because he was very interested in seeing the formation of the first “space family.” Though Valentina gave birth to a girl one year later, the marriage ended. Their daughter, Yelena, was the first child born to parents who had both traveled in space.
Valentina enrolled in the Zhukovskiy Military Air Academy in 1964 and graduated with honors in 1969. Unfortunately, after her graduation, the female cosmonaut detachment at the academy was disbanded. It would be 19 years before the Soviet Union again sent a woman into space.
Valentina became very active within the Soviet communist party, and served as presidium of the Supreme Soviet in 1974. With the dissolution of the communist party, she was forced to find another position.
She now heads the Russian Government Center for International Scientific and Cultural co-operation. The center acts as an intermediary between Russian and foreign companies, assisting research organizations and businesses in establishing foreign contact with business opportunities. In the past several years, the center has organized events in 38 countries. A main goal is to raise the awareness of the public in foreign countries of the situation in contemporary Russia. One of the current projects is sending the children of the doomed submarine, the Kursk, to Berlin and Vienna for vacation, and one of the centers main priorities is spreading the Russian language.As spokesperson for the center, Valentina has received many awards including the United Nation Gold Medal of Peace, the Simba International Woman’s Movement Award, and the Joliot-Curie gold medal. In Oct 2000, she received the “Greatest Woman of the Century” award in London. This award was given by the International Woman of the Year Association, which had previously awarded her the woman of the year award in 1984.
In an interview with Moscow times magazine, Valentina was quoted as saying, “The ideals of the party were close to me, and I have tried to adhere to those principles all my life. In essence, they are the same as in the Ten Commandments in the Bible. I will never change my convictions.” Today, Valentina resides in Star City in NE Moscow. She takes great joy in her daughter “the person who is closest to me” and her 5 year old grandson, Alyosha.
About space, she says ” Anyone who has spent any time in space will love it for the rest of their lives. I achieved my childhood dream of the sky.”
Anita York has been homeschooling her four youngest children for the past 17 years. In addition, she teaches other homeschoolers at a resource center, and is a contracted Managing Editor, Editor, Copyeditor, and Manuscript Screener for three different on-line publishers. She was also the Promotions Manager for the Novel Advice and builds and manages the SF, Fantasy, and Romance Author Spotlights pages at SimeGen.com. She and her husband are raising their children on five acres of the beautiful Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, where the family spends seven evenings a week at a local dairy while mom and dad milk the cows. Her home business, EagleMountain Reading, Writing, and Research Services, provides a variety of services geared towards helping beginning as well as established authors with various aspects of the writing process.