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Early Beginnings of the Soviet Woman in Space

Out of all the DOSAAF dossiers reviewed for the opportunity, close to 60 women showed potential as candidates. After conducting a paper review, only 40 passed this test. In January of 1962, the acceptable applicants were called to Moscow to undergo an interview process and complete a physical exam. Valentina met all of the requirements asked of her.

The only black mark on Valentina’s record stemmed from her father, as he was listed as ‘MIA.’ In those days, it was not uncommon for the government to be suspicious of potential deserters. Despite this family tree blemish, Valentina’s credentials spoke for themselves. In the end, she became one of five women selected as cosmonaut-candidates in February of 1962. With the other four women possessing test pilot licenses, top-notch parachuting honors, and engineer credentials, Tereshkova was the least qualified of the bunch. She also did not have a degree in higher education.

All five women completed the course of training ahead of them. They encountered weightless flights and jumped out of parachutes. They endured isolation and centrifuge tests. At the start of the training, the leading contenders for the first flight to include a female were Solovyova, Kuznetsova, and Valentina, who showed her excellence in the physical training. Her only weaknesses proved rocket theory and spacecraft engineering.

The women also completed follow-up training for the program that consisted of 120 parachute jumps and pilot training in MiG-15UTI jet trainers. They were also commissioned in the Soviet Air Force as lieutenants.  It was during this time, Valentina found a calling with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. By this time, she was now a full-fledged member.

The process of choosing of the first female into space received a boost of urgency after Soviet representatives paid a visit to Washington. It was there that cosmonaut Gherman Titov and the head of the space program concerning Valentina (Kaminin) attended a BBQ at the home of John Glenn , the American astronaut who earned recognition for orbiting the Earth and in later years, for becoming the oldest astronaut to reach space. With a political background already playing a role, Glenn spoke of his support for a mission that would send female pilots into space. He mentioned that some women had already passed the astronaut physical and that there was a push to train the females as Mercury astronauts.

It was revealed that plans for a three-orbit Mercury flight including the first American woman was slated to take place by the end of 1962. There was no way that Kamanin would allow the Americans to beat the Soviets on this achievement. With this information, he used this newfound knowledge to push for the first flight involving a Soviet woman only a couple of weeks after his return from Washington. At first, the plans involved just one female to take flight, but it was later decided to use more than one.