52 years ago on this day, Valentina Tereshkova launched on her Vostok 6 mission and became the first woman in space, breaking the ultimate glass ceiling. Valentina was partly selected for the Soviet Space Program for her exceptional parachuting ability, having conducted 126 jumps, at a time when cosmonauts were required to parachute from their capsules mere seconds before they impacted the ground. This is unlike the current Soyuz capsules, which parachute into the desert steppes of Kazakhstan, firing retro rockets to land safely. As Valentina parachuted from her capsule during her Vostok 6 landing, wind gusts unfortunately caused her face to hit the inside of her helmet and gave her a bloody nose and a bruise under one eye. Valentina’s mission and achievement inspired generations of women to study STEM, however it was 20 years later in 1983 before Sally Ride would go on to become the first American woman in space. The percentage of female astronauts represented in NASA’s astronaut corps has steadily increased since then, now reaching 26%. NASA’s recent astronaut class contained the highest percentage of female astronauts ever selected by the agency, with women selected as four out of the new eight astronauts. Although not quite yet equal, the number of tangible female role models in space is increasing, inspired by Valentina’s story and the others that parachuted to Earth before them.
Astronauts, Inspirational women