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Breaking Ground

June 16, 2013

RADIO MOSCOW: This is Radio Moscow. Here is a special announcement. For the first time in history, a woman has gone up into outer space. A Soviet citizen, Tereshkova.

Valentina Tereshkova was a 22-year-old textile worker when she decided to take up a hobby — skydiving. She became so good at it that a couple of years later she earned the attention of the Soviet Union’s space program. She was one of five women selected to train for a trip to orbit. And 50 years ago today, she became the only one of them to fly — the first woman in space.

At the time, space travel was a powerful symbol of national prowess, and Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev was a master of space propaganda. He wanted a woman to fly in space to show the superiority of Soviet people and technology

Tereshkova, who picked the call sign “Seagull,” spent three days in space — more than all six American men who’d flown in space combined. Her flight was part of a Soviet doubleheader — another cosmonaut was already orbiting aboard another capsule. The two briefly passed within three miles of each other.

After returning to Earth, Tereshkova was awarded the Order of Lenin and became a goodwill ambassador. But she never flew in space again. And neither did any other woman for almost 20 years. Today, more than 50 women have flown in space. They’ve commanded space shuttles and the International Space Station, and served as NASA’s chief astronaut. All of them followed the trail blazed by a “seagull” a half-century ago.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2013

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