Voices from Russia

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Valentina Tereshkova Celebrates 75th Birthday… Многая лета!





Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman-cosmonaut in the world, celebrated her 75th birthday “in the line of duty” at the RF Gosduma, where she won election in December. Although she’s a newbie parliamentarian, she has much experience in public and state service… she’s given almost twenty years of her life to women’s work in public organisations, starting with the Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries (VOKS), and she was a deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR for many years. The whole world knows her as the first woman lifted form the earth to the stars. In June 1963, people all over the world heard of the Russian “Seagull” (Tereshkova’s radio call-sign). The story of a simple girl from a peasant family, who went to night school after working all day at a textile factory, and, then, soared to the stars, is a legend of a cosmonautic Cinderella.

Valentina was fascinated with aviation during her work and night school years, she was active in the local flying club, she made 163 parachute jumps. However, she wanted to fly… and to become the first female cosmonaut, in particular, she’d have to learn to fly a plane first. She told us, “The pressure on our group of five women was greater than that put on the men”. In general, she stated, the training system in those days was very harsh. However, “everybody was full of crazy ideas… and to carry them out we needed to be impeccably trained”.

Valentina realised her dream; however, the space flight that made her world-famous almost ended in tragedy. She told us a secret that she had kept for many years, “We’d slipped up and miscalculated… the craft was so oriented that instead of landing, it would rise in orbit, with the result that I wouldn’t be able to return to Earth safely, but I noticed this in time, reported it, the experts redid their calculations and corrected them, so, I was able to land in one piece”. The flight of Vostok 6 (call-sign: Seagull), which lasted less than three days, was the last of her career. In 1968, the first female cosmonaut team disbanded. Continuing as a cosmonaut, then-Lieutenant Colonel Tereshkova graduated with honours in 1969 from the Zhukovsky Air Force Engineering Academy, qualifying as a “cosmonaut-pilot-engineer”. Not content with that, the first woman-cosmonaut defended her thesis and received the rank of Professor… she has more than 50 scientific publications to her credit. In addition, she became the first female general in Russian history, reaching the rank of Major General of Aviation in 1995.

However, space exploration didn’t let go of her. She confesses that she has only one objective in life… “I want to go to that marvellously mysterious red planet; all of us, including Sergei Korolyov, dreamed of doing that a few decades ago. I’m ready to fly to Mars… even if I don’t come back”, she once told reporters. Valentina won many honours not only in the Soviet Union and Russia, but in other countries as well. She’s an honorary citizen of her native Yaroslavl, as well as in many other cities in the world. A crater on the Moon and a minor planet are named after her, too.

6 March 2012

Voice of Russia World Service



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