Radical Woman of the Day: Valentina Tereshkova

On this day in 1937 was born Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova, Soviet cosmonaut and first woman in space. During her single three-day flight in June 1963 she orbited the earth 48 times and logged more hours in space than all American astronauts at the time combined.

After the flight of Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space, the Soviet space program decided to send women into space, and Tereshkova was selected along with four other applicants to train for the possibility of going into orbit. Tereshkova was not a scientist or pilot but an amateur skydiver, and her experience parachuting led to her selection for the space program. After several months of training in various disciplines, Tereshkova and three of her fellow trainees were commissioned as Junior Lieutenants in the Soviet Air Force, and Tereshkova was eventually chosen to participate in the Vostok 6 space flight.

After the successful flight Tereshkova continued her education at the Nikolai Zhukovsky Air Force Engineering Academy, graduating as a cosmonaut engineer. She later took a doctorate in engineering. She followed her career in the Air Force with one in politics, being appointed to the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union from 1966 to 1974, to the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet from 1974 to 1989, and to the Central Committee of the Communist Party from 1969 to 1991. She also represented the Soviet Union at the UN Conference for the International Women’s Year in 1975. Tereshkova has received numerous awards and decorations, including the Hero of the Soviet Union, the Order of Lenin, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Edinburgh. A crater on the far side of the moon is named after her.