Who is Valentina Tereshkova?

In June of 1963, a cosmonaut from the USSR named Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman to reach space. Valentina Tereshkova was born and raised in a small town located in the Yaroslavl Region called Maslennikovo. During the Finno-Russian War of 1939-1940, her father (a tractor driver named Vladimir Aksyenovich Tereshkov) went missing while in action. This left her mother, Elena Fedorovna, to work at a textile plant while caring for Valentina and her two siblings , a younger brother (Vladimir) and older sister.

When the end of the war arrived, Tereshkova was able to start school. By this time, she was eight years old. When she turned 17 years old, she was forced to leave school and start working at the same textile plant as her mother so that the family could be better supported. Valentina proved quite an ambitious individual and certainly wanted more out of life. Because of this, she furthered her education with correspondence courses and learned how to sky dive with the help of the DOSAAF Aviation Club in Yaroslavl, which was an auxiliary organization of the Soviet Air Force.

Valentina’s first jump took place on May 21st, 1959. Afterwards, she established the Textile Mill Workers Parachute Club, becoming the supervisor of the organization. After two years passed, she assumed the position of secretary of the local Komsomol (better known as the Young Communist League). Her experience and learning expanded further, as she earned a certification as an expert in the technology of cotton spinning.

A great deal of changes took place shortly after she turned 24 years old , the Soviet Union launched the first man (Yuri Gagarin ) into space during a mission involving the Vostok-1 spacecraft. It was around this time that department heads of the Soviet Air Force started to discuss the possibility of females participating in spaceflights. The goal was to locate a female cosmonaut that could following the footsteps of Gagarin. With new space plans in the mix, five women were included in the requirements for choosing 50 new cosmonauts for the future of space exploration.

At the time, piloting experience was not needed due to the fact that the Vostok was a completely automatic operation. Basically, whoever was traveling inside , they assumed the role of passenger. However, knowing how to parachute was a requirement, as Vostok cosmonauts are ejected from the capsule upon reentry. They then landed to earth with the help of a parachute of their own. In order to qualify, females were expected to be under 30 years old, under 170 centimeters tall and weigh under 70 kilograms. They would also need to prove their physical fitness and complete parachute training that lasted at least five to six months. This indeed was a very exciting time for females with an eye for the sky.