With human space exploration moving to private ventures, Valentina Tereshkova's courage - stunning the world when, on 16/6/1963, she broke through to become the first woman in space - is all the more remarkable.
The event is of infinite value and impact in the history of Women's Rights and their continuing efforts to gain equality.
Valentina was one of only 4 finalists (of 5 chosen) - out of 400 applicants - to be selected to the Female Cosmonaut Corps. The Soviets - First with a satellite (Sputnik/ 1957) - First man in space (Yuri Gagarin/ 1961) - made a total commitment to place a woman in space at the earliest possible time.
It is imperative to point out that - in complete contradistinction - America's FLAT (First Lady Astronaut Training Programme), featuring 13 highly skilled female pilots who qualified - after 25 were tested - (many of whom outperformed their male counterparts who were placed in the Mercury 7 Programme) was shut down before it was ever implemented. Pleas by 2 of the women in the Programme to a House Special Subcommittee on Science and Astronautics are ignored when - for absolutely no apparent good reason - the panel decides that training women would be detrimental to America's Astronautical Programme. It would be just over 20 years -20/6/1983 - from the date of Tereshkova's flight that Astrophysicist Sally Ride becomes the first American woman in space, serving as a Mission Specialist on the Space Shuttle's 7th mission.
Valentina had an interest in parachuting from her youth, trained at the local Aeroclub, and made her first jump at 22 (21/5/1959). Her jumping experience contributed greatly to her being chosen as a Cosmonaut. Training included weightless flights, isolation and centrifuge tests, Rocket Theory, Spacecraft Engineering, 120 parachute jumps and Pilot Training on MIG-15 jets.
Following a flawless 2-hour countdown, her Vostok 6 enjoyed a perfect launch. Ten years younger - just over 26 - than America's youngest Mercury 7 Astronaut, Gordon Cooper, Valentina displayed tremendous physical courage and great stamina.
Her 71 hours - 48 earth orbits - constituted more flight time than the combined hours of all American Astronauts who had flown prior to her mission.
Though she suffered nausea and discomfort for much of the flight, Valentina - call sign, CHAIKA ("SEAGULL") - maintained a Flight Log, took photographs of the horizon and communicated by radio with fellow Cosmonaut Valery Bykovsky - at one point only 5 km away - whose 5-day Vostok 5 mission was launched 2 days before hers, and who landed only 3 hours after Valentina.