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First woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova

She spent “more time in space than all U.S. astronauts combined to that date.” It would be another 20 years before an American woman went to space.

In 1963, a woman in the United States made about 60-cents for every dollar earned by a man. That year, the first woman would to go into space: Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova (16-19 June 1963).

Born in 1937, Tereshkova became an amateur parachutist after she turned 18, a skill that helped her become a cosmonaut.

Shortly after the flight of cosmonaut Gherman Titov in September of 1961 she wrote a letter to the space center volunteering for the cosmonaut team. Unknown to her, Soviet space officials were considering the selection of a group of women parachutists. In December 1961 Valentina was invited to Moscow for an interview and medical examination. The following March she reported with three other women to the Soviet Space Center at Star City.

Over a period of 71 hours, Tereshkova orbited the Earth 48 times in her space capsule, Vostok 6. That was “more time in space than all U.S. astronauts combined to that date.”

Valentina Tereshkova
Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman to fly to space when she launched on the Vostok 6 mission on 16 June 1963. (Image credit: NASA)

It would be another 20 years before America would send a woman to space. Sally K. Ride (26 May 1951 – 23 July 2012) became the first American woman in space in 1983.

Sally Ride
Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative. Link is to a short video.

However, Dr. Randy Lovelace, a NASA scientist who had conducted the official physicals for NASA’s first seven astronauts (the Mercury 7, named in 1959) had also “administered the tests [to women] at his private clinic without official NASA sanction.”

These women were part of the First Lady Astronaut Trainees (FLAT) and were “skilled pilots.” After completing the training exercises, Jerrie Cobb (05 March  1931 – 18 March 2019), “rank[ed] in the top 2% of all astronaut candidates of both genders.”

[M]ounting political pressure and internal opposition lead NASA to restrict its official astronaut training program to men despite campaigning by the thirteen finalists of the FLAT program.

After three years, Cobb left NASA for the jungles of the Amazon, where she has spent four decades as a solo pilot delivering food, medicine, and other aid to the indigenous people. She has received the Amelia Earhart Medal, the Harmon Trophy, the Pioneer Woman Award, the Bishop Wright Air Industry Award, and many other decorations for her tireless years of humanitarian service.

About equal pay

The 1963 Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act each addressed this gap.

[The 1963 Act] prohibited employers from paying male and female workers different wages for “jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions.”

Almost 60 years later, the pay gap persists, although it has shrunk considerably for younger women.

In a 2020 [Pew Research] survey, 45% of those who said it’s important for women to have equal rights with men volunteered equal pay as a specific example of what a society with gender equality might look like. This response trumped other items such as women not being discriminated against for their gender or women being equally represented in leadership positions.

#scitech, space, society (146/365)
Daily posts, 2022-2023

By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

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