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Valentina in the Space race

June 16, 2013

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On this day fifty years ago the first woman went out into space. The world was a different place then. Cold war had moved to the sky and Sputnik I started the race for supremacy in space exploration. But after the Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth, followed by the first American three weeks later, the firsts in manned missions seemed to be over for a while. Yet, the Soviets kept another ace up their sleeve.

They came up with the idea of a special woman-in-space programme. Hundreds of young soviet women applied, but only four were selected to undergo the cosmonaut training. After mastering jet and weightless flights, isolation and centrifuge tests all successfully completed the training and became candidates for the women Vostok flight. Among them was also Valentina Tereshkova.

Valentina started her aviation career as a passionate amateur parachutist. As a daughter of a tractor driver and a textile worker, she was a true model for a modern Soviet woman. On the morning of 16 June 1963, two women were dressed in spacesuits and taken on a bus to the Vostok launch pad. Only after life support checks Valentina recognised she is the one to be sealed inside the capsule and launched. Minutes later she was blasted into the sky. Valentina orbited the earth 48 times and spent almost three days in space. The first woman in space logged more flight time than all American astronauts before that date. It took another 19 years until another female got a chance to explore the universe again.

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