“A bird cannot fly with one wing only. Human space flight cannot develop any further without the active participation of women.” -Valentina Tereshkova
On June 18, 1983, the Space Shuttle Challenger launched Sally Ride — the first female American astronaut — into space.
But that came a full 20 years after Soviet Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova’s pioneering voyage.
On June 16, 1963, Tereshkova piloted Vostok 6, completing 48 orbits around Earth during her three day mission.
It was her expertise in skydiving, obtained through the local Aeroclub starting at age 22, that led to her selection.
Her flight into space, at age 26, is still the record for youngest female astronaut/cosmonaut.
Aboard Vostok 6, her rendezvous with Vostok 5 cosmonaut Valery Bykovsky made them the first cosmonauts aboard different vessels to communicate in space.
In cosmonaut history, only Yuri Gagarin and Alexey Leonov are more revered.
When journalists questioned the hardiness of Sally Ride’s body for spaceflight, Tereshkova publicly rebuked such sexist claims.
Honorarily inducted into the Air Force so she could join the Cosmonaut Corps, she obtained the rank of Major General by her 1997 retirement.
Today, March 6th, marks her 80th birthday. A prominent political figure, she still serves in the State Duma within the Russian legislature.
In 2013, she declared she’d still lead a one-way trip to Mars, if the opportunity arose.