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Why Was Valentina Tereshkova Selected?

In August of 1962, the Soviets managed to accomplish first dual manned spaceflight. Vostok 3 and 4 was successful in orbiting in space at the same time. Each craft carried one Soviet man. Kamanin had hopes that in the coming spring, Vostok 5 and 6 would orbit two women at the same time. He made plans to make it official in the next spaceflight with women scheduled for 1963.

The selection for this historic flight took place on November 19th of 1962. The final candidates were listed as Ponomaryova and Tereshkova. It now came down to who would be given the honor as being the first Soviet woman in space. The woman with the best test results was Ponomaryova, but when it came time for her interview with the Communist selection board, she was deemed not to have given the ‘right’ answers. For example, she was asked, ‘What do you want from life?’ Her reply was “I want to take everything it can offer”. This answer paled in comparison to Tereshkova’s reply, which stated, “I want to support irrevocably the Komsomol and Communist Party”.

Ponomaryova’s chances also diminished when she asserted opinions on women smokers and how they were still decent people, which didn’t sit well with the board. She was also connected to a couple of trips into the town of Fedosiya during her parachute training days that were seen as a scandal since she went unaccompanied.

The dreams of a dual female flight plan started to fade when the higher-ups in the Soviet Union decided to change their minds during a meeting of the Presidium of the Communist Party that took place on March 21st, 1963. With such backers, like the Ministry of Defense Chief Ustinov, the new plan was to send just one female into space with the intention of spreading propaganda.

Valentina’s name was put into the pot for a Vostok 6 flight because he felt she was less qualified than Ponomaryova. His thoughts of flying fly two women aboard a multi-crew version of the Vostok (called the Voskhod) meant that more time was needed. Additional space piloting skills would have to come into play and one of the cosmonauts needed preparation in completing a spacewalk. This mission called for the commander skills of Ponomaryova and the ability to spacewalk with bravery and strength , something that Solovyova would have been perfect for. Since Valentina was the least skilled of the three women, she would not have been included in this mission.

In the end, Valentina’s affiliation with the Communist Party helped her land a place on the first female mission into space. She would beat out other candidates deemed more experienced due to the potential appeal she held with the Soviet public. The final selection of crew became the choice of Premier Khrushchev himself. He believed she had what it took to become the ‘ New Soviet Woman.’

However, she would meet controversy along the way of fulfilling her dreams. To learn more about Valentina Tereshkova and her life, check out the article titled, “15 Facts About Valentina Tereshkova.”