In 1963, who became the first woman to travel into space?
And the answer: Valentina Tereshkova.
As a cosmonaut in the Soviet Union, Tereshkova became the first woman to travel into space, aboard the Vostok 6 spacecraft. She spent almost three days in space, orbiting the Earth 48 times, and to this day is the only woman to have flown on a solo space mission.
Though Tereshkova broke records with her 1963 flight, this Soviet cosmonaut had never actually intended to go to space. Tereshkova was born on March 6, 1937 in small a village in western Russia. When she was two years old, Tereshkova lost her father in World War II. The young girl's mother went on to raise her and her two siblings alone while supporting them by working in a textile mill. Young Valentina continued on to school while also working in the mill, but soon realized a secret passion: parachuting. This hobby was ultimately a decisive advantage for the cosmonaut's selection in the Soviet training program.
During the late 50s and 60s, the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union began to escalate. The competition between the two nations was fierce, and the Soviets were determined to be the first to send a woman into space. Ultimately, after vigorous training and preparation, the Soviet union celebrated as Tereshkova launched on June 16, 1963. It was another 20 years before American Sally Ride made her way beyond Earth's atmosphere.
As Tereshkova's craft took off, the cosmonaut shouted: “Hey sky, take off your hat. I’m on my way!”