Samstag, 5. Februar 2011
Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova was born March 6th, 1937 in Bolshoye Maslennikovo in the Yaroslavl Oblast of the Soviet Union. Her father, Vladimir Aksyenovich Tereshkov was a tractor driver, and her mother, Elena Fedorovna, worked in a textile plant. She had a younger brother and an older sister. Valentina's father Vladimir went missing in action in the Finno-Russian War of 1939-1940, and so Valentina and her siblings were raised by their mother.
Due to World War II, Valentina didn't begin attending school until she was 8 years old. At 17 she had to leave school to work at a textile mill in order to help support her family; however, she continued her education through a correspondence course. Valentina learned to sky dive through an auxiliary organization of the Soviet Air Force located in her town (Yaroslavl). She made her first jump in 1959 and created a Parachute Club at the textile mill where she worked.
In April 1961, the Soviet Union launched Vostok-1 carrying Yuri Gagarin, the first man, into space. Cosmonaut Chief Nikolai Kamanin believed it was the patriotic duty of the program to send a woman into space. In October of 1961, Kamanin added a requirement for five women to be chosen among the 50 new cosmonauts being recruited at the time. Since the Vostok vessel was completely automated, piloting experience was not a requirement. However, since the Vostok cosmonaut was ejected clear of the capsule after re-entry and landed on earth under a personal parachute, parachuting experience was required. There were 58 women candidates initially, of which 40 were interviewed.
Valentina was one of the five women selected as cosmonaut candidates. She was excellent at physical training, but had more difficulty with rocketry and spacecraft engineering. All five were commissioned as lieutenants in the Soviet Air Force. Valentina became a full member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The first women flight was planned and Premier Khrushchev was to make the final decision on which of the five female Cosmonauts would go. Khrushchev felt that Valentina embodied the ideal of the New Soviet Woman; she was a member of the communist party and a factory worker with a proletariat background. Valentina also had looks, charm, and an outgoing personality well disposed for celebrity.
On June 16th, 1963, Vostok 6 was launched and Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space. The flight was not without difficulty; the orbiter was oriented incorrectly and needed to be corrected, unfortunately it took her a day to convince ground control. Valentina became queasy during the flight and became sick. To reduce what ground control perceived as space sickness, Valentina was told to stay strapped into her chair for the three day duration of the flight. When she finally landed, she suffered a blow to her nose that resulted in a dark bruise. In the propaganda tours that followed, she had to wear heavy makeup to conceal the bruise.
Valentina married fellow Cosmonaut Andrian Nikolayev on November 3, 1963 with top space program leaders and even Premeir Krushchev in attendence. She obtained a graduate level engineering degree at the Zhukovskiy Military Air Academy in 1969. With the disbandment of the female cosmonauts detachment, Valentina entered politics and became a prominent communist party member and an international representative for the soviet space program. In 1982, after a tumultuous marriage, she and Nikolayev divorced and she married Yuliy Shapolshnikov, a physician for the space program. Tereshkova and Yuliy remained married until his death in 1999. Although Tereshkova never returned to space, she remained closely associated with the space agency until her retirement in 1999.
Among Valentina Tereshkova's many awards are the Orders of Lenin, recognition as a Hero of the Soviet Union, the United Nation Gold Medal of Peace, the Simba International Women's Movement Award, and the Joliot-Curie Gold Medal.