Valentina Tereshkova

  • Valentina Tereshkova in 1969
    Credit: RIA Novosti Archive
    Name: Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova
  • Born: 6th March 1937
  • Nationality: Russian
  • Occupation: astronaut, engineer, politician
  • Time in space: 2 days, 23 hours, 12 minutes

Valentina Tereshkova grew up in Maslennikovo, Russia, USSR. After she left school, Valentina had jobs in a tyre factory and in a textile mill. In her spare time she loved parachuting and skydiving at her local club. 

In 1962, Valentina joined the USSR Air Force cosmonaut programme. She was not a pilot, but her hobbies helped her to qualify. All cosmonauts needed to have experience of parachute jumps from a plane. They also had to be under 30 years old, shorter than 170 cm tall, and under 70 kg in weight. This was to make sure they were healthy enough to go to space. It was also to make sure they would fit inside the cramped space capsules. 

In 1963, Valentina was the first woman to travel to space. She was 26 when she did so, and is still the youngest women to go to space. Valentine was the pilot of the Vostok 6 mission. During her flight, she orbited the Earth 48 times.  Valentina was named a Hero of the Soviet Union and was awarded the Order of Lenin twice.

After her flight, Valentina left the cosmonaut programme to study at an Air Force academy. She graduated as a cosmonaut engineer. In 1977, she completed a PhD in engineering. Valentina later went into politics. She was a member of the World Peace Council and represented the USSR at the United Nations. In 2011, she was elected to the Russian State Duma.