On June 16, 1963, Russia’s Valentina Tereshkova launched aboard Vostok 6 becoming the first woman to be launched into space.
Valentina Tereshkova was born on March 6, 1937, in Bolshoye Maslennikovo, a village on the Volga River. In her early twenties, she became interested in parachuting and made her first jump at age 22. Soon after she began training as a competitive parachutist, an expertise that was instrumental in her selection as a cosmonaut in February 1961.
During training, Tereshkova completed weightless flights, isolation tests, centrifuge tests, rocket theory, spacecraft engineering, 120 parachute jumps, and training on MiG-15UTI jet fighters. At the conclusion of her training, she had graduated from the Zhukovsky Air Force Engineering Academy as a cosmonaut engineer with distinction.
By the early 1960s, Tereshkova and fellow female cosmonauts Valentina Ponomaryova, Irina Solovyova were the lead candidates to pilot two missions to space. On May 21, 1963, the State Space Commission selected Tereshkova to be the pilot of Vostok 6.
On June 16 at 09:29 UTC, Tereshkova blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome and into the history books. She spent a total of 2 days 22 hours and 50 minutes in space, completing 48 orbits of the Earth. She returned to Earth safely on June 19 at 08:20 UTC touching down 200 km West of Barnaul, Altai in Russia.
It would be another 20 years before the US replicated the achievement with Sally Ride. Tereshkova remains the only woman to have ever flown a solo mission to space.