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Valentina Tereshkova, First Woman In Space

Updated on November 27, 2017
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish has 30 years of successful experience in medicine, psychology, STEM courses, and aerospace education (CAP).

"It is I, Seagull."

Source

Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman in space, first civilian in space, the first and only woman to fly solo in space, and the first person to wear a mission patch in space.

Mission Code Name Chaika, The Seagull

A week before the 50th anniversary of the first space flight ever made by a woman (and made alone), her previous supervisors renewed a sort of smear campaign against her.

June 16, 2013 would not bring ticker tape parades, a National or State Holiday, and a week of special events as had occurred for John Glenn's 50th anniversary of space flight on February 20, 2012. However, it did bring her another medal and several media interviews.

Code name Chaika, the seagull, Valentina Tereshkova reports a mistake on the part of Soviet scientists that could have killed her during her historic flight. The scientists now counter with the claim that she vomited in the space capsule. Tereshkova maintains that she did not become ill, but that the low quality of Soviet space meals did make her nauseated.

In the end, which would be a worse secret - the death of a 26-year-old cosmonaut who was the first female in space from anywhere on Earth, because of scientific error, or some vomit on the floor of a space capsule?

Vostok 6 capsule of 1964, displayed in the Science Museum of London, England.
Vostok 6 capsule of 1964, displayed in the Science Museum of London, England. | Source

Чайка

Чайка is "seagull" in Russian, and many of us write it in English as Chaika. Using "chayka" is a bit disconcerting, because the "y" letter in Russian is pronounced "oo" as in kangaroo.

Tereshkova answered her call from Mission Control, CCCR, "It is I, Seagull."

No other woman has ever made a solo space flight over the course of almost 60 years. Tershkova's flight was number 12 among American and Soviet flights.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Valentina Tereshkova, pilot-cosmonaut, first female cosmonaut, Hero of the USSR.A 10-kopek stamp honoring the cosmonaut.Valentina Tereshkova, 1st woman cosmonaut, June 16-19, 1963. A 10 Forint Air Mail stamp.
Valentina Tereshkova, pilot-cosmonaut, first female cosmonaut, Hero of the USSR.
Valentina Tereshkova, pilot-cosmonaut, first female cosmonaut, Hero of the USSR. | Source
A 10-kopek stamp honoring the cosmonaut.
A 10-kopek stamp honoring the cosmonaut. | Source
Valentina Tereshkova, 1st woman cosmonaut, June 16-19, 1963. A 10 Forint Air Mail stamp.
Valentina Tereshkova, 1st woman cosmonaut, June 16-19, 1963. A 10 Forint Air Mail stamp. | Source

Space Milestones

Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman in space, first civilian in space, the first and only woman to fly solo in space, and the first person to wear a mission patch in space.

Patches were made for the previous Vostok missions after the fact, when the public learned about Tereshkova's patch. She was made an honorary member of the Soviet Air Force, but later joined the academy and graduated as a cosmonaut engineer.

First Mission Flight Patch In Space: Vostok 6/Chaika

Aside from the first scientific embarrassment, the former Soviets and their media buried the fact that Tereshkova wore the first flight mission patch of any cosmonaut or astronaut. It was finally brought out at the 50th Anniversary date, when the woman cosmonaut was 76 years old.

Tereshkova's coworkers in a textile factory hand made a large flight patch that was worn on the undergarment of the space suit, over the heart. Three patches in total were finished and placed on three undergarments, all in a Russian museum or in storage at this time. The image depicts a large white seagull carrying an olive branch of peace through bright yellow rays of the sun. Across the bottom are the Cyrillic letters CCCP in bright red to depict the Soviet Union. Very few photos of it exist and you can see it here.

The large patch and a new half-size patch are on sale to the public at this time.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Vostok 6 patch.
Source
Vostok 6 patch.
Vostok 6 patch. | Source

The Chaika Vostok 6 Mission

Tereshkova was a textile worker and Communist Youth Leader at her factory; and was a good skydiver before coming to the Soviet Space Program during the Cold War Space Race against the USA. Out of 400 women chosen to train for the mission, she was the one left at the end of training (7 months) and testing.

The cosmonaut was tapped into a close-fitting ejection seat and maintained that position for three days. Thus far, I find no records anywhere that she was allowed to sleep during those three days. She was assigned a few tasks for the first day and given nothing to do for the remaining two days.

The tasks she did have included speaking to and singing to a male cosmonaut in Vostok 5 as they nearly crossed paths in space. Remaining tasks for the first day involved taking vital signs and other measurements of herself in space flight in order to build a beginning database of the effects of space travel on the female body. Finally, she kept a flight log and took photos pf the horizon at different points in orbit.

A doctor and scientists at the Soviet equivalent of Mission Control recorded that she was slow to respond and did not move during the second two days of her mission. My idea is that her legs had fallen asleep and she was on the edge of sleep herself.

Near the end of the mission, Tereshkova reports that she noticed that the flight instruments were programed to move into a higher trajectory and not to land at all. If true, she would have died in space.She stated that she was able to correct the course herself by entering the correct data. If true, her superiors did not appreciate her ability in this matter.

The spacewoman reports that she was told to be silent about this problem and its remedy at all costs. She said nothing until the fall of the CCCP/USSR in 1989.

Major General Valentina Tereshkova, Hero of the Soviet Union. This is a meeting Russian Federation President Putin in 2013.
Major General Valentina Tereshkova, Hero of the Soviet Union. This is a meeting Russian Federation President Putin in 2013. | Source

As of December 2017, Tereshkova is still the only woman ever to make a solo space flight.

Source

Tereshkova reports that she noticed that the flight instruments were programed to move into a higher trajectory and not to land at all. If this were true, she would have died in space.

Mission Control and Capsule Conflicts

A doctor and scientists at the Soviet equivalent of the American Mission Control in the USSR recorded that she was slow to respond and did not move during the second two days of her mission. My idea is that her legs had fallen asleep and she was on the edge of sleep herself.

Near the end of the mission, Tereshkova reports that she noticed that the flight instruments were programed to move into a higher trajectory and not to land at all. If this were true, she would have died in space.

The cosmonaut stated that she was able to correct the course herself by entering the correct data. If true, her superiors did not appreciate her ability in this matter.

The spacewoman reports that she was told to be silent about this problem and its remedy at all costs. She said nothing until the fall of the CCCP/USSR in 1989.

Sources of Conflicting Reports

Conspiracy Theory

There were jokes in the USA during the 1960s that in the USSR, when an official caught a cold or flu and went to bed, out of the public eye (and later died), or when a fatal accident occurred that killed an official, a cosmonaut, a military person, or someone else in the media, that these incidents were actually homicides.

A conspiracy theorist could make many speculations in the mission of Vostok 6.

Vostock 6 Ejection Seat Deployed

Tershkova's assigned physician claimed that she vomited in the capsule and later cleaned it out to save face. This is unlikely, since her ejection seat blew clear of the capsule that landed in a lake. The seat then was blown by winds to the shoreline.

The cosmonaut would have had to unstrap herself, which was difficult, re-orient her walking to Earth gravity, swim to the capsule if it had not yet sunk, clean it out, and swim back to shore.

Officials and the cosmonaut seem to agree that a peasant family of farmers found her in her seat and they swapped food and space rations.

Aftermath of Vostok 6

Tereshkova studied at a Soviet Air Force Academy and earned the rank of Cosmonaut Engineer, Major-General; and achieved a PhD in engineering.

She entered politics and currently supports Russia and President Putin. A lunar crater and an asteroid are both named after her. She also is the recipient of dozens of medals from the Eastern Bloc, Russia, and the UN.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
At age 76, Tereshkova, the Seagull, wants to fly to Mars.
At age 76, Tereshkova, the Seagull, wants to fly to Mars.
At age 76, Tereshkova, the Seagull, wants to fly to Mars. | Source
Source

Important Places to Valentina Tereshkova

A
Yaroslavl:
Yaroslavl, Yaroslavl Oblast, Russia

get directions

Valentina Tereshkova's childhood home.

B
Moscow:
Moscow, Russia

get directions

Capital of the former USSR.

C
Star City, Russia:
Star, Novgorod Oblast, Russia

get directions

Training grounds for cosmonauts since the 1960s.

D
Star City, Russia (second small city division):
Star, Bryansk Oblast, Russia

get directions

E
Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan:
Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan

get directions

F
Lemetti, Finland:
Lemetti, 58200 Kerimäki, Finland

get directions

Site where Tereshkova's father Valdimir, a Hero of the Soviet Union, died in the Finnish Winter War of WWII.

G
Baevo, Region of Altai:
Baevo, Altai Krai, Russia

get directions

The originally schduled landing site.

H
Barnaul, Region of Altai:
Barnaul, Altai Krai, Russia

get directions

Landing site of Vostok 6.

© 2013 Patty Inglish MS

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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Yes, and then she went to the Air Force Academy to become a real military person. She had a lot of training in her life.

    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 

      5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I had no idea that she was a civilian. Fascinating article!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks very much for that information, CHRIS57 -- Do you know if she was awake for the whole 3 days in space?

      I don't trust Wikipedia at all for accurate data, but I have read about the food swap and famers you mention in the newspapers, as well as about Nikita Khrushchev's part in pushing forward one of the proletariat. An interesesting era in history all around.

    • CHRIS57 profile image

      CHRIS57 

      5 years ago from Northern Germany

      Soviet space missions were always very demanding and risky. It had happened before that the reentry procedure had to be corrected by the cosmonauts. Also at that time it was common practice to eject the cosmonaut from the capsule before landing.

      Something interesting might be, that the Soviets made intensive tests and examination of female physis in space. This is why dogs and primates made their way up into space and returned safely. Results showed that female body´s resistance to extreme environmental conditions like acceleration or lack of gravity was lowest during certain days of the monthly menstruation cycle. This lead to a selection of potential woman cosmonauts for the launch date. And on that list Tereshkova was only no. 5.

      However direct intervention of Nikita Khrushchev pushed Tereshkova up front, probably due to here favourable working class social background.

      And all this may explain her problems during the space flight. The russian Wikipedia mentions that she gave all the Cosmonaut/Astronaut food to farmers who had picked her up after landing and enjoyed the local cuisine back on earth.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      It almost does sound like they tried to lose Valentina up there, mylindaelliott!

      Governments can be so unreasonable at times - Valentina wasn't allowed to say she fixed anything, and JFK wouldn't let Yuri Gagarin into the USA because he was "too popular" for a Soviet. The USSR must not have liked Yuri either, because he died in a strange air mishap at age 34. Another pilot reported that he saw a second plane approach Yuri's very closely, break the sound barrier, and Yuri's plane crash because of the shock wave. I don't know.

    • mylindaelliott profile image

      mylindaelliott 

      5 years ago from Louisiana

      This is certainly an interesting story. I'm so glad there are women our girls can be proud of no matter what country. If her country really tried to 'lose' her in space that was despicable.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Yes, a very strange situation. I feel that the USSR may have used her as they did the dogs and other animals they shot into space in order to do as much as possible in aerospace advancement before the USA could do so. The former Soviets seem very angry that she reported the flying instruments' problems to the public.

    • Elisha Jachetti profile image

      Elisha Jachetti 

      5 years ago

      What a strange and bizarre story! Thankfully, she was able to reorient the spacecraft and come back to Earth safely.

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