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Valentina Tereshkova

Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova (Russian: Валенти́на Влади́мировна Терешко́ва, IPA: [vɐlʲɪnʲˈtʲinə vlɐˈdʲimʲɪrəvnə tʲɪrʲɪʂˈkovə] (About this soundlisten); born 6 March 1937) is a retired Russian cosmonaut, engineer, and current member of the Russian State Duma. She is the first woman to have flown in space, having been selected from more than 400 applicants and five finalists to pilot Vostok 6 on 16 June 1963.

Valentina Tereshkova
Valentina Tereshkova (2017-03-06).jpg
Valentina in March 2017
Born (1937-03-06) 6 March 1937 (age 81)
Other namesValentina Nikolayeva Tereshkova
AwardsHero of the Soviet Union
Order "For Merit to the Fatherland"
Order of Lenin (2)
Order of the October Revolution
Order of Alexander Nevsky
Order of Honour
Order of Friendship
Space career
Soviet cosmonaut
RankRAF AF F6MajGen 2010-1.png Major general, Soviet Air Force
Time in space
2 days, 22 hrs, and 50 mins
SelectionFemale group
MissionsVostok 6
Valentina Tereshkova Signature.svg

In order to join the Cosmonaut Corps, Tereshkova was honorarily inducted into the Soviet Air Force and thus she also became the first civilian to fly in space.[1]

Before her recruitment as a cosmonaut, Tereshkova was a textile-factory assembly worker and an amateur skydiver. After the dissolution of the first group of female cosmonauts in 1969, she became a prominent member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, holding various political offices. She remained politically active following the collapse of the Soviet Union and is regarded as a hero in post-Soviet Russia and much of the world. Having orbited Earth 48 times, Tereshkova remains the only woman ever to have been on a solo space mission.[2][3]

In 2013, she offered to go on a one-way trip to Mars if the opportunity arose.[4]


Early lifeEdit

Valentina Tereshkova was born in the village of Maslennikovo in Tutayevsky District, Yaroslavl Oblast, in central Russia. Her parents had migrated from Belarus.[5] Tereshkova's father was a tractor driver and her mother worked in a textile plant. Tereshkova went to school in 1945 at the age 8; however, she left school in 1953 at 16 and continued her education by correspondence courses.[6]

She became interested in parachuting from a young age, and trained in skydiving at the local Aeroclub, making her first jump at age 22 on 21 May 1959; at the time, she was employed as a textile worker in a local factory. It was her expertise in skydiving that led to her selection as a cosmonaut. In 1961, she became Secretary of the local Komsomol (Young Communist League) and later joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.[7]

Career in the Soviet space programEdit

Cosmonauts Valentina Tereshkova and Valery Bykovsky among children

After the flight of Yuri Gagarin in 1961, Sergey Korolyov, the chief Soviet rocket engineer, came up with the idea of putting a woman in space. On 16 February 1962, Valentina Tereshkova was selected to join the female cosmonaut corps. Out of more than 400 applicants, five were selected: Tatyana Kuznetsova, Irina Solovyova, Zhanna Yorkina, Valentina Ponomaryova, and Tereshkova. Qualifications included that they be parachutists under 30 years of age, under 170 cm (5 ft 7 in) tall, and under 70 kg (154 lb) in weight.[8]

Tereshkova was considered a particularly worthy candidate, partly due to her "proletarian" background, and because her father, tank leader sergeant Vladimir Tereshkov, was a war hero. He died in the Finnish Winter War during World War II in the Lemetti area in Finnish Karelia when Tereshkova was two years old. After her mission, she was asked how the Soviet Union should thank her for her service to the country. Tereshkova asked that the government search for, and publish, the location where her father was killed in action. This was done, and a monument now stands at the site in Lemetti—now on the Russian side of the border. Tereshkova has since visited Finland several times.

Training included weightless flights, isolation tests, centrifuge tests, rocket theory, spacecraft engineering, 120 parachute jumps and pilot training in MiG-15UTI jet fighters. The group spent several months in intensive training, concluding with examinations in November 1962, after which four remaining candidates were commissioned Junior Lieutenants in the Soviet Air Force. Tereshkova, Solovyova and Ponomaryova were the leading candidates, and a joint mission profile was developed that would see two women launched into space, on solo Vostok flights on consecutive days in March or April 1963.[9]

Originally it was intended that Tereshkova would launch first in Vostok 5 while Ponomaryova would follow her into orbit in Vostok 6. However, this flight plan was altered in March 1963. Vostok 5 would now carry a male cosmonaut Valery Bykovsky flying the joint mission, with a solo woman aboard Vostok 6 in June 1963. The State Space Commission nominated Tereshkova to pilot Vostok 6 at their meeting on 21 May and this was confirmed by Nikita Khrushchev himself.[10] Tereshkova was exactly ten years younger than the youngest Mercury Seven astronaut, Gordon Cooper.

After watching the successful launch of Vostok 5 on 14 June, Tereshkova began final preparations for her own flight. She was 26 at the time. On the morning of 16 June 1963, Tereshkova and her backup Solovyova were both dressed in spacesuits and taken to the launch pad by bus. Following the tradition set by Gagarin, Tereshkova also urinated on the bus tire, becoming the first woman to do so[11]. After completing her communication and life support checks, she was sealed inside the Vostok. After a two-hour countdown, Vostok 6 launched faultlessly, and Tereshkova became the first woman in space.[12] Her call sign in this flight was Chaika (English: Seagull; Russian: Ча́йка), later commemorated as the name of an asteroid, 1671 Chaika.[13]

From left to right: Yuri Gagarin, Pavel Popovich, Valentina Tereshkova, and Nikita Khrushchev at the Lenin Mausoleum, during a celebration honoring the Soviet cosmonauts, 1963

Although Tereshkova experienced nausea and physical discomfort for much of the flight,[14] she orbited the earth 48 times and spent almost three days in space. With a single flight, she logged more flight time than the combined times of all American astronauts who had flown before that date.[15] Tereshkova also maintained a flight log and took photographs of the horizon, which were later used to identify aerosol layers within the atmosphere.[16]

Vostok 6 was the final Vostok flight and was launched two days after Vostok 5 which carried Valery Bykovsky into a similar orbit for five days, landing three hours after Tereshkova. The two vessels approached each other within 5 km (3.1 mi) at one point, and Tereshkova communicated with Bykovsky and with Khrushchev by radio.

Even though there were plans for further flights by women, it took 19 years until the second woman, Svetlana Savitskaya, flew into space. None of the other four in Tereshkova's early group flew, and, in October 1969, the pioneering female cosmonaut group was dissolved.[9]

In September 1963, Tereshkova donated a silver cup at the women's 1963 European Rowing Championships held in Khimki near Moscow for the most successful nation, which went to the team from the Soviet Union as they won gold in all five boat classes.[17]


Tereshkova, skiing, 1964

After her flight, Tereshkova studied at the Zhukovsky Air Force Academy and graduated with distinction as a cosmonaut engineer. In 1977 she earned a doctorate in engineering.

Soviet political careerEdit

Tereshkova with African American civil rights activist Angela Davis in 1973

Due to her prominence, Tereshkova was chosen for several political positions: from 1966 to 1974 she was a member of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union, from 1974 to 1989 a member of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, and from 1969 to 1991 she was in the Central Committee of the Communist Party. In 1997, she was retired from the Russian Air Force and the cosmonaut corps by presidential order.

Beyond her recognized political offices within the Soviet Union, Tereshkova also became a well-known representative of the Soviet Union abroad. She was made a member of the World Peace Council in 1966, a member of the Yaroslavl Soviet in 1967. She was also the Soviet representative to the UN Conference for the International Women's Year in Mexico City in 1975. She also led the Soviet delegation to the World Conference on Women in Copenhagen and played a critical role in shaping the socialist women's global agenda for peace.[18] She attained the rank of deputy to the Supreme Soviet, membership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Central Committee, Vice President of the International Woman’s Democratic Federation and President of the Soviet-Algerian Friendship Society.

She was decorated with the Hero of the Soviet Union medal, the USSR's highest award. She was also awarded the Order of Lenin, Order of the October Revolution, numerous other medals, and foreign orders including the Karl Marx Order, United Nations Gold Medal of Peace and the Simba International Women’s Movement Award. She was also bestowed a title of the Hero of Socialist Labor of Czechoslovakia, Hero of Labor of Vietnam, and Hero of Mongolia. In 1990 she received an honorary doctorate from the University of Edinburgh. Tereshkova crater on the far side of the Moon was named after her.

Post-Soviet political careerEdit

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Tereshkova lost her political office but none of her prestige. To this day, she is revered as a hero, and to some her importance in Russian space history is only surpassed by Yuri Gagarin and Alexey Leonov. She was elected to the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian legislature, in 2011 as a member of United Russia where she continues to serve.[19]

Tereshkova's life and spaceflight were first written of in the West in the 1975 book: It Is I, Sea Gull; Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space by Mitchel R. Sharpe[20] and then again in greater detail of her life and spaceflight in the 2007 book Into That Silent Sea by Colin Burgess and Francis French, including interviews with Tereshkova and her colleagues.

Tereshkova was invited to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's residence in Novo-Ogaryovo for the celebration of her 70th birthday. While there she said that she would like to fly to Mars, even if it meant that it was a one-way trip.[21]

On 5 April 2008, she was a torchbearer of the 2008 Summer Olympics torch relay in Saint Petersburg, Russia.[22]

She received the Eduard Rhein Ring of Honor from the German Eduard Rhein Foundation in 2007.[23][24]

Personal lifeEdit

The wedding ceremony of pilot-cosmonauts Valentina Tereshkova and Andriyan Nikolayev, 3 November 1963.

Tereschkova married cosmonaut Andriyan Nikolayev on 3 November 1963 at the Moscow Wedding Palace with Khrushchev presiding at the wedding party together with top government and space programme leaders.[25]

On 8 June 1964, nearly one year after her space flight, she gave birth to their daughter Elena Andrianovna Nikolaeva-Tereshkova,[26] who became a doctor and was the first person to have both a mother and father who had travelled into space. She and Nikolayev divorced in 1982. Her second husband, the orthopaedist Yuliy G. Shaposhnikov, died in 1999.

Honours and awardsEdit

Valentina Tereshkova and Neil Armstrong, 1970
Tereshkova visiting the Lviv confectionery, Ukrainian SSR, 1967
Valentina Tereshkova among delegates at the 24th Congress of the CPSU, 1971.
Tereshkova at the Heureka science centre, in Finland, 2002
Valentina Tereshkova and NASA astronaut Catherine Coleman at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in December 2010.
Tereshkova with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the Russian State Duma, 2018


  • Order of Merit for the Fatherland;
    • 2nd class (6 March 2007) – for outstanding contribution to the development of domestic space
    • 3rd class (6 March 1997) – for services to the state and the great personal contribution to the development of domestic space
  • Order of Alexander Nevsky (2013)[27]
  • Order of Honour (10 June 2003) – for outstanding contribution to the development and strengthening of international scientific, cultural and social ties
  • Order of Friendship (12 April 2011) – for outstanding contribution to the development of national manned space flight and long-term fruitful public activity
  • Russian Federation State Prize for outstanding achievements in the field of humanitarian action in 2008 (4 June 2009)
  • Certificates of appreciation from the Government of the Russian Federation;
    • 16 June 2008, – for long-term fruitful state and public activities, considerable personal contribution to the development of manned space flight and in connection with the 45th anniversary of spaceflight
    • 12 June 2003, – for large contribution to the development of manned space flight
    • 3 March 1997, – for the contribution to the development of space, the strengthening of international scientific and cultural ties and years of diligent work


Other Warsaw Pact awardsEdit

Other international awardsEdit

Scientific, social and religious organizationsEdit

  • Gold Medal, Tsiolkovsky Academy of Sciences of the USSR
  • Gold Medal of the British Society for interplanetary communications "For achievements in space exploration" (February 1964)
  • Gold Medal of the "Cosmos" (FAI)
  • Award Galambera Astronautics
  • Gold Medal of Peace Joliot-Curie (France, 1964)
  • Order "Wind Rose" International Committee of the National Aeronautics and Space Missions
  • "Golden mimosa" of the Italian Union of Women (1963)
  • Sign of the Komsomol "For active in the League" (1963)
  • Gold Medal Exhibition of Economic Achievements (28 June 1963)
  • Honour of DOSAAF (1 July 1963)
  • Order of St. Euphrosyne, Grand Duchess of Moscow, 2nd class (2008)

Honorary citizenshipsEdit

Kaluga, Yaroslavl (Russia), Karaganda, Baikonur (Leninsk, Kazakhstan, 1977), Gyumri (Leninakan, Armenia, 1965), Vitebsk (Belarus, 1975), Montreux (Switzerland), Drancy (France), Montgomery (UK), Polizzi Generosa (Italy), Darkhan (Mongolia, 1965), Sofia, Burgas, Petrich, Stara Zagora, Pleven, Varna (Bulgaria, 1963), Bratislava (Slovakia, 1963)


Vintage Soviet era Russian matryoshka doll celebrating Valentina Tereshkova

Various locations and monuments have been named after Valentina Tereshkova:

Postage stamp of Kyrgyzstan, 2013

In popular cultureEdit

In 1997, London-based electronic pop group Komputer released a song entitled "Valentina" which gives a more-or-less direct account of her career as a cosmonaut. It was released as a single and appears on their album The World of Tomorrow. The band Public Service Broadcasting has a song entitled "Valentina" on their 2015 album The Race for Space in tribute to her. In the same year, Findlay Napier's album VIP: Very Interesting Persons included a song "Valentina", written in her honour by Napier and Boo Hewerdine.

Tereshkova was featured in the 2003 made-for-television adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time. She was portrayed by Apollonia Vanova

In season three of Orange is the New Black, Red describes Tereshkova as her hero, and notes her focus in wanting to travel to Mars, despite being in her seventies.

In 2015, a short film entitled Valentina's Dream was released by Meat Bingo Productions. The film stars Rebecca Front as Tereshkova and is based on an interview by the former cosmonaut where she expressed a desire to journey to Mars.

The 2007 video game Mass Effect included a fictional star system named for Tereshkova.[29]

Streets in Ukraine that bore Tereshkova's name have been renamed due to the country's 2015 decommunization law.[30][31]

The 2015 space flight simulator Kerbal Space Program features a pilot Kerbal named Valentina in her honor.[32]

The 2017 mobile RPG Alliance: Heroes of the Spire has a hero named "Valentina, the Star Pioneer" in honor of Tereshkova.

In 2017, Uruguayan electronic duo Corvis released a full album inspired by Valentina's courage, Krasnyy. They specially made her a tribute naming "Chaika" to the most climatic and emotional track of the album.

The BBC drama Call the Midwife (Season 7, Episode 4; broadcast 11 February 2018) used the space flight of Tereshkova as an example of heroism by a woman.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova". Yaroslavl Region. 2016. Archived from the original on 2015-09-04. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  2. ^ "8 surprising facts about stellar career of Valentina Tereshkova, the 1st woman in space". Archived from the original on 2018-01-20. Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  3. ^ Dejevsky, Mary (29 March 2017). "The first woman in space: 'People shouldn't waste money on wars'". the Guardian. Archived from the original on 2018-01-20. Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  4. ^ "First female astronaut Valentina Tereshkova wants one-way Mars ticket". 9 June 2013. Archived from the original on 2016-04-16. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  5. ^ "Першая жанчына‑касманаўт ў дзяцінстве гаварыла па‑беларуску" [The first woman in space spoke Belarusian as a child]. Nasha Niva (in Belarusian). 24 April 2009. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  6. ^ "Valentina Tereshkova". StarChild: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. 2016. Archived from the original on 2016-03-21. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  7. ^ "President Vladimir Putin of Russia Congratulates Valentina Tereshkova, First Woman In Space on 80th Birthday". Russia Today. 6 March 2017. Archived from the original on 2017-04-05. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  8. ^ Ghosh, Pallab (17 September 2015). "Valentina Tereshkova: USSR was 'worried' about women in space". BBC News. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  9. ^ a b Sever, Megan (June 2014). "June 16, 1963 & June 18, 1983: Valentina Tereshkova and Sally Ride Become First and Third Women in Space". Earth. 59 (6): 60–61. Archived from the original on 2016-04-14. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  10. ^ Burgis, Colin; Vis, Bert (2015). Interkosmos: The Eastern Bloc's Early Space Program. Springer Paxis Books. ISBN 978-3319241616.
  11. ^ "First Woman in Space ‹ :: A Magazine for Aviators, Pilots and Adventurers". Archived from the original on 2018-09-09. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  12. ^ Knapton, Sarah (17 September 2015). "Russia forgot to send toothbrush with first woman in space". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 2016-03-24. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  13. ^ Knight, Kelly (June 2003). "Earth calling Seagull". Astronomy. 31 (6): 30.
  14. ^ "Валентина Терешкова: чьей воле покорялась женщина, покорившая космос" [Valentina Tereshkova: the Woman who Conquered Space]. RIA Novosti (in Russian). 16 June 2006. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  15. ^ Kennedy, Maev (17 September 2015). "First woman in space recalls mission's teething troubles". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2016-03-29. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  16. ^ Tereshkova, Valentina (4 January 1964). "Three days in outer space". The Saturday Evening Post. 237 (1): 62–63.
  17. ^ "Fünf Europatitel für UdSSR-Ruderinnen". Neues Deutschland (in German). 18 (247). 9 September 1963. p. 6. Archived from the original on 2018-01-14. Retrieved 13 January 2018. (Registration required (help)).
  18. ^ Ghodsee, Kristen (Winter 2012). "Rethinking State Socialist Mass Women's Organizations: The Committee of the Bulgarian Women's Movement and the United Nations Decade for Women, 1975-1985". Journal of Women's History. 24 (4): 49–73. doi:10.1353/jowh.2012.0044.
  19. ^ "Терешкова Валентина Владимировна" [Tereshkova, Valentina Vladimirovna]. The State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation. 2016. Archived from the original on 2015-09-23. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  20. ^ Sharpe, Mitchell R. (1975). "It is I, Sea gull;": Valentina Tereshkova, first woman in space. Crowell. ISBN 978-0-690-00646-9.
  21. ^ "First woman in space dreams of flying to Mars". Reuters. 6 March 2007. Archived from the original on 2009-03-02. Retrieved 26 May 2008.
  22. ^ "Олимпийский огонь понесут Друзь, Фрейндлих и Плющенко". Komsomolskaya Pravda (in Russian). 16 October 2012. Archived from the original on 2013-06-06. Retrieved 4 March 2013.
  23. ^ "The Eduard Rhein Ring of Honor Recipients". Eduard Rhein Foundation. Archived from the original on 18 July 2011. Retrieved 5 February 2011.
  24. ^ "Ring of Honor 2007 – Dr. techn. Dr.h.c.mult. Valentina V. Tereschkova". Eduard Rhein Foundation (in German). Archived from the original on 18 July 2011. Retrieved 5 February 2011.
  25. ^ Eidelman, Tamara (2013). "A Cosmic Wedding". Russian Life. 56 (6): 22–25.
  26. ^ Feldman, Heather (2003). Valentina Tereshkova: The First Woman in Space. Rosen Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-8239-6246-4.
  27. ^ "The Japan News".
  28. ^ Rosen, Rebecca J. (16 June 2013). "The Remote Siberian Monument to the First Woman in Space, Who Launched 50 Years Ago Today". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on 2016-03-02. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  29. ^ Cris Converse (3 March 2016). Mass Effect Game Guide. Booksmango. pp. 60–61. ISBN 978-1-63323-677-6.
  30. ^ (in Ukrainian) Muscovite renamed all the streets Valentina Tereshkova Archived 2016-04-21 at the Wayback Machine, Ukrayinska Pravda (12 April 2016)
  31. ^ "The scandal with the renaming in Odessa: the city Council gave the answer". Archived from the original on 2018-04-12. Retrieved 2017-05-02.
  32. ^ Kerbal Space Program [@KerbalSpaceP] (24 February 2015). "@xZise She's named after Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space" (Tweet) – via Twitter.

Further readingEdit

  • Bill O’Neil, "Whatever became of Valentina Tereshkova?" New Scientist 8/14/93, Vol. 139, Issue 1886p. 21.
  • A. Lothian, Valentina: The First Woman in Space, The Pentland Press, 1993, ISBN 978-1858210643.
  • Tamara Eidelman, "The First Woman in Space," Russian Life. May/Jun 2008, Vol. 51, Issue 3, p. 19-21.
  • Tamara Eidelman, "The Extraordinary Destiny of an ‘Ordinary’ Woman," Russian Life. May/June 2003, Vol. 46, Issue 3, p.19.
  • Daniel Gauthier, "Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova." Ad Astra. Jul/Aug 1991, Vol. 3, Issue 6, p. 29.
  • Robert Griswold, ""Russian Blonde in Space": Soviet Women in the American Imagination, 1950-1965." Journal of Social History. Summer 2012, Vol. 45, Issue 4, p.881-907.
  • Laira Woodmansee, "Two who dared," Ad Astra. Summer 2005, Vol. 17, Issue 2, p. 48-48.
  • "First woman in space" at
  • Valentina Tereshkova, The First Lady of Space: In Her Own Words,, October 2015

External linksEdit