Colonel-Engineer Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova (March 6, 1937- ) was a Soviet cosmonaut and the first woman in space. She was on the Vostok 5 mission which launched on June 16, 1963, and orbited the Earth 48 times. The flight lasted 2.95 days (=70.8 hours). During her space mission, Tereshkova’s radio call name was “Chaika,” which means “seagull” in Russian.
The Vostok 5 spacecraft was recovered on June 19, 1963, in the Soviet Union. Tereshkova had parachuted from the spacecraft after earth’s atmospheric re-entry; she landed about 380 miles northeast of Karaganda, Kazakhstan. Valentina Tereshkova was given the title “Hero of the Soviet Union,” received the Order of Lenin, and was honored with the United Nations Gold Medal of Peace. She never flew in space again.
Tereshkova had been an expert in parachuting and a factory worker before she wrote to the Soviet space program, volunteering her service. She and the other candidates to be in the first woman in space were given extensive testing and interviews (beginning in December 1961). Tereshkova and Tatyana Torchillova were chosen in May 1963, to train for the Vostok 6 flight. Tereshkova was the final choice.
On November 3, 1963, Tereshkova married another cosmonaut (Andrian Nikolayev, who also went into space). They had a daughter, Elena Andrionovna, who was born in 1964; Elena (now a doctor in Russia) was the first child born to parents who both went into space. Tereshkova went on to graduate from the Zhuykosky Air Force Engineering Academy in 1969, and in 1976, earned a degree in Technical Science.