In 1961, after Yuri Gagarin had beaten the Americans to become the first man in space, the Soviets decided to also go for the accolade of first woman in space.

Tereshkova was selected out of 400 applicants, largely due to her parachuting experience, to train for a mission into space in 1963. At the age of just 26, aboard the Vostok 6, cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova made history for Russia by becoming the first woman to orbit the earth.

She took pictures of the planet and the moon, and logged reports of the physical effects of spaceflight. Having orbited Earth 48 times, she remains the only woman ever to have been on a solo space mission, spending 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.

After her flight, Tereshkova graduated with distinction as a cosmonaut engineer and earned a doctorate in engineering. Due to her prominence, she was chosen for several political positions and also became a well-known representative of the Soviet Union abroad.

“Anyone who has spent any time in space will love it for the rest of their lives. I achieved my childhood dream of the sky.”