How does a textile factory worker from Yaroslavl Oblast in central Russia become Russia’s first cosmonaut in 1963?
It’s a great question knowing that Valentina Tereshkova was only twenty-four when her application to the Soviet Space Station was accepted. Eighteen months later, she flew into space and orbited the Earth for three days.
A stain glass window in Yaroslavl, Russia at the Valentina Tereshkova Planetarium.
Other than being a young woman with a penchant for amateur skydiving and 126 parachute jumps under her belt, Valentina hardly seemed qualified.
Somehow, it didn’t seem to matter when she was selected from 400 applicants. It was the age of space exploration and Valentina’s mission was just two years after her countryman, Yuri Gagarin, became the first man in space.
These missions were a win for Russia and Communism, with America and other countries around the world in hot pursuit. Are the stakes or goals any different today as China, Japan, the U.K., Canada, and India send more satellites into space and set their sites on Mars?
Countries must grapple with budgetary constraints as they weigh the benefits of space programs. Check back this Wednesday for some interesting conversation about Valentina’s historic flight and its impact on space exploration. Food for thought til then: did the government hijack Valentina’s life for the benefit of propaganda and Russia’s glory?