This date in science: First woman in space

Under the call name “Chaika” (Seagull), Tereshkova launched solo aboard Vostok 6 in June, 1963, to become the first woman in space.

June 16, 1963. Under the call name “Chaika” (Seagull), Valentina Tereshkova launched solo aboard Vostok 6 on June 16, 1963 to become the first woman in space. Part of her mission was to compare how the female body reacted in space to data collected in two years of male-only missions. She spent nearly 71 hours in space, orbiting the Earth 48 times.

Valentina Tereshkova via RIA Novosti/Wikipedia

Her flight was heralded as a leap forward for women, but the next female cosmonaut did not fly for another 20 years. The United States’ first female astronaut, Sally Ride, rocketed into space on June 18, 1983.

Tereshkova was born in a small village in central Russia. Her interest in skydiving, which she began as a teenager, brought her to the attention of the Soviet space program. In 2013, on the 50th anniversary of her 1963 record-breaking space flight, Tereshkova said that she disapproved of space tourists and would be prepared to drop the idea of retirement to undertake a one-way trip to Mars.

Elizabeth Howell