Sunday, June 16, 2013

First woman in space - 50 years ago

A belated salute to Valentina Tereshkova, who 50 years ago became the first woman in space.
On the one hand, it was a political stunt. Her 48 orbits in a Vostok capsule (call sign: Seagull) were a demonstration of the supposed equality of women under Communism. She didn't have to meet many of the requirements of the Soviet men and didn't have as much training.  Once she succeeded, the female cosmonaut group was disbanded, all mention of its existence vanished from Soviet media, and, while Tereshkova was paraded fpor many years as a national hero (at one point telling an international meeting that she was going to be on a mission to the moon), no Soviet woman flew again until one was rushed into space to beat the U.S.'s Sally Ride.  (Ride was arguably the first-ever qualified female astronaut, the first who'd been through all the training and qualifications required for men in her ocuntry's program.) 
On the other hand, it still took a hell of a lot of courage for a woman whose previous flight-related experience was as a sports parachutist to climb into the tiny capsule atop the R-7 booster and be hurled into space, knowing that her options in the event of a serious malfunction were basically limited to dying, as was true with all the astronauts and cosmonauts of that period. She was the first, and that standing can never be taken away from her.  So raise the vodka glass.  Zuh Vahs! 

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