Валенти́на Влади́мировна Терешко́ва; Belarusian: Валянціна Уладзіміраўна Церашко́ва) (born March 6, 1937) is a retired Soviet cosmonaut, and was the first woman in space. She was selected out of more than four hundred applicants, and then out of five finalists, to pilot Vostok 6 on the 16 June, 1963, becoming both the first woman and the first civilian to fly in space, as she was only honorarily inducted into the USSR's Air Force as a condition on joining the Cosmonaut Corps. During her three-day mission, she performed various tests on herself to collect data on the female body's reaction to spaceflight.
Before being recruited as a cosmonaut, Tereshkova was a textile-factory assembly worker and an amateur parachutist. After the dissolution of the first group of female cosmonauts in 1969, she became a prominent member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, holding various political offices. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, she retired from politics, but remains revered as a hero in post-Soviet Russia.
After the flight of Yuri Gagarin in 1961, Sergey Korolyov, the chief Soviet rocket engineer, came up with the idea of putting a woman in space. On February 16, 1962, Valentina Tereshkova was selected to join the female cosmonaut corps. Out of more than four hundred applicants, five were selected: Tatyana Kuznetsova, Irina Solovyova, Zhanna Yorkina, Valentina Ponomaryova, and Tereshkova. Qualifications included that they be parachutists under 30 years of age, under 170 cm (5 feet 7 inches) tall, and under 70 kg (154 lbs.) in weight.
Training included weightless flights, isolation tests, centrifuge tests, rocket theory, spacecraft engineering, 120 parachute jumps and pilot training in MiG-15UTI jet fighters. The group spent several months in intensive training, concluding with examinations in November 1962, after which four remaining candidates were commissioned Junior Lieutenants in the Soviet Air Force. Tereshkova, Solovyova and Ponomaryova were the leading candidates, and a joint mission profile was developed that would see two women launched into space, on solo Vostok flights on consecutive days in March or April 1963.
Originally it was intended that Tereshkova would launch first in Vostok 5 while Ponomaryova would follow her into orbit in Vostok 6. However, this flight plan was altered in March 1963. Vostok 5 would now carry a male cosmonaut Valery Bykovsky flying the joint mission with a woman aboard Vostok 6 in June 1963. The State Space Commission nominated Tereshkova to pilot Vostok 6 at their meeting on May 21 and this was confirmed by Nikita Khrushchev himself. At the time of her selection, Tereshkova was ten years younger than the youngest Mercury Seven astronaut, Gordon Cooper.
Ча́йка), later commemorated as the name of an asteroid, 1671 Chaika.
Although Tereshkova experienced nausea and physical discomfort for much of the flight, she orbited the earth 48 times and spent almost three days in space. With a single flight, she logged more flight time than the combined times of all American astronauts who had flown before that date. Tereshkova also maintained a flight log and took photographs of the horizon, which were later used to identify aerosol layers within the atmosphere.
Vostok 6 was the final Vostok flight and was launched two days after Vostok 5 which carried Valery Bykovsky into a similar orbit for five days, landing three hours after Tereshkova. The two vessels approached each other within 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) at one point, and Tereshkova communicated with Bykovsky and with Khrushchev by radio.
Even though there were plans for further flights by women, it took 19 years until the second woman, Svetlana Savitskaya, flew into space. None of the other four in Tereshkova's early group ever flew, and in October 1969 the pioneering female cosmonaut group was dissolved.
Nació en Máslennikovo, un pequeño pueblo del óblast de Yaroslavl, en la actual Rusia. Tras abandonar la escuela, trabajó en una fábrica de neumáticos y más tarde estudió ingeniería. También practicó paracaidismo. En 1962 fue seleccionada para su ingreso en el cuerpo femenino de cosmonautas. De entre más de cuatrocientas candidatas, cinco fueron seleccionadas: Tatiana Kuznetsova, Irina Soloviova, Zhanna Yérkina, Valentina Ponomariova y Tereshkova.
El 16 de junio de 1963, a la edad de 26 años y a bordo del Vostok 6, se convirtió en la primera mujer en viajar al espacio. Su nombre en clave durante la misión fue Chaika (gaviota en castellano, Чайка en ruso). Serguéi Koroliov estaba descontento con el comportamiento de Tereshkova en órbita y no se le permitió tomar el control manual de la nave, tal y como estaba planeado. Aunque estaban previstos más vuelos en los que participaran mujeres, pasaron 19 años hasta que otra mujer, Svetlana Savítskaya, viajara al espacio. Ninguna de las otras cuatro cosmonautas del grupo de Tereshkova viajó al espacio.
Tras la misión espacial estudió en la Academia de la Fuerza Aérea de Zhukovski, y se graduó como ingeniera espacial en 1969. Ese mismo año, el grupo de cosmonautas femenino fue disuelto. En 1977 recibió el doctorado en ingeniería. Debido a su prominencia desempeñó diversos cargos políticos: de 1966 a 1974 fue miembro del Soviet Supremo, de 1974 a 1989 formó parte del Presidium del Soviet Supremo, y de 1969 a 1991 perteneció al Comité Central del Partido Comunista. En 1997 se retiró de la fuerza aérea y del cuerpo de cosmonautas.
El 3 de noviembre de 1963 contrajo matrimonio con el cosmonauta Andrián Nikoláyev (1929-2004) y un año más tarde dio a luz a su hija Elena (1964), quien es ahora doctora en medicina. Valentina se divorció de su primer marido en 1982. Su segundo marido, el Dr. Shapóshnikov, murió en 1999.