50 years ago on 16 June 1963 the Vostok 6 spacecraft took off from Baikonur with the first woman to go into orbit on board, Valentina Tereshkova. The young, 26-year old woman was allowing her country to once again beat the United States in the space race, which saw the two superpowers pitted against one another against the backdrop of the Cold War and ideological confrontation.
It was this climate of tension that explained why the cosmonaut promised to keep the secret about the major malfunction of her spacecraft which may have prevented her return to Earth! Since then, times have changed and, 30 years after her historic flight lasting almost 3 days, the engineer responsible for the breakdown began to talk openly about it, releasing Valentina Tereshkova from her promise to Korolev, the Soviet genius who designed the Semiorka (today’s Soyuz) rocket.
Interviewed in 2011, Valentina Tereshkova reflected on this flight and this 30-year old secret.
To find out more about women in space, read this Enjoy Space feature published to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Valentina Tereshkova’s flight.
The Cité de l’Espace is paying tribute to female astronauts with a special exhibition presented in this article.
Published 14 June 2013