Valentina Tereshkova, call name “Seagull” and the first woman in space, flew solo for 71 hours and circled Earth 48 times in her only trip into orbit. She might’ve been forced to marry another cosmonaut.

Valentina Tereshkova was a remarkable parachutist, jumping more than 90 times before the Soviet space program announced an interest in sending a woman to space. An attractive candidate because of her blue-collar background, the daughter of a factory worker and tractor driver, Tereshkova was selected for flight and launched into space on June 16, 1963 on Vostok 6. She remains the only woman ever to fly a solo space mission. Later, she married fellow cosmonaut Andrian Nikolayev, a marriage some say was arranged: they had a daughter, Yelena, the first child born to parents who had both been in space.

Did you know:

  1. Some 400 women entered the Soviet Union’s training program in the hopes of becoming the first woman in space.
  2. None of the other four women selected as final cosmonaut candidates ever flew to space.
  3. The second woman in space, Svetlana Savitskaya, didn’t reach orbit until 1982, one year before American astronaut Sally Ride.
  4. During Yuri Gagarin’s trip to space, he orbited Earth once; the first four Americans in space orbited a total of 36 times.
  5. Upon completion of her only trip to space, Tereshkova was bestowed the title Hero of the Soviet Union.
  6. Her trip to space made the Russians look good, as women weren’t allowed in the US space program at the time.
  7. Tereshkova became a member of the Supreme Soviet, the Soviet Union’s national parliament, in 1966.
  8. She also served as a representative on several international women’s organizations on behalf of Russia and the Soviet Union.
  9. Tereshkova has expressed great interest in traveling to Mars, her favourite planet, even at 80 years of age.
  10. Upon launch in 1963, Tereshkova shouted, “Hey sky, take off your hat. I’m on my way!”