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Things We Saw Today: On This Day Fifty-Five Years Ago, Valentina Tereshkova Became the First Woman in Space

Looking back on the world's first female astronaut.

valentina tereshkova

On June 16, 1963, Soviet Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman ever to travel into space, piloting the Vostok 6 capsule for 48 orbits and 71 hours before her descent. By the time she got back to Earth, she had spent more time in space than all U.S. astronauts combined up til then. Tereshkova’s story is a remarkable one: raised in the small village of Maslennikovo, Tereshkova’s love of skydiving quickly garnered the attention of the Soviet Space Program. She was recruited by Nikolai Kamanin, the head of the cosmonaut program, where she beat out 400 applicants and 5 finalists to be the first woman in orbit. America would finally catch up twenty years later when Sally Ride joined the Challenger crew for STS-7.

(via History, image: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.