Badass Scientist of the Week: Valentina Tereshkova
Valentina Tereshkova (1937–) is a Soviet cosmonaut, an engineer, and the first woman to fly in space. Born to a tractor driver and a textile plant worker in the Yaroslavl Region of Russia, Tereshkova left school at 17 to work as a textile factory assembly worker and continue her education by correspondence. She was also a keen amateur skydiver through the DOSAAF Aviation Club in Yaroslavl. Tereshkova made her first jump in May 1959 at age 22, and two years later in April 1961, the Soviet Union launched Vostok 1, aboard which was Yuri Gagarin: the first man in space.
In early 1962, the Soviet Union recruited 50 new cosmonauts into their Vostok program—with 5 women among them, in an attempt to beat the Americans. Piloting experience wasn’t needed, but after re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, the pilot of the Vostok spacecraft would be ejected to make a landing by parachute. Thanks to her parachuting expertise, Tereshkova was selected. She was the least qualified of the 5 women, who were test pilots, engineers, and world-class parachutists, but after intensive training—weightless flights, centrifuge and isolation tests, spacecraft engineering, parachute jumps and pilot training—Tereshkova was in the final two candidates: herself and Ponomaryova.
At first it was planned that Tereshkova would launch first in Vostok 5 and Ponomaryova would follow in Vostok 6, but the plan was scrapped in early 1963; instead, a male cosmonaut flew Vostok 5, and Tereshkova flew in Vostok 6. She was 26 years old.
She spent 70.8 hours in space, making 48 orbits of the Earth, and with one single flight she logged more flight time than all previous American astronauts put together. She also conducted experiments on the effects of space on the human body and took photos that helped identify aerosols in the atmosphere.
After her return to Earth, Tereshkova never flew again, but studied engineering at the Zhukovsky Air Force Academy and eventually obtained her PhD in 1977. She also became a prominent politician, served on international councils and spoke at international conferences, played a critical role in socialist women’s issues, and was awarded with the USSR’s highest honour, the Hero of the Soviet Union medal, along with many other awards.
After Tereshkova, it took 19 years until another woman flew to space: another Soviet cosmonaut, Svetlana Savitskaya. A year after that in 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. Of the 536 people who have flown in space to date, only 10% of them have been women.
Tereshkova also married astronaut Andrian Nikolayev. Their daughter, Elena, was the first person whose parents had both flown in space.
On her 70th birthday, Tereshkova said that if she had a chance, she would like to fly to Mars even if it was only a one-way trip, showing she still retains her pioneering spirit to this day.
And this is repainted version of my old Cloud Strife painting which I did in 2012. I didn’t like it anymore, so I decided to paint over it. My style changed a lot during these years, I must say xD And I tried to paint him more realistic this time. Enjoy.
"I was at boarding school and had been misbehaving and I was sent to study drama, to the theater at my school. I was sent under duress and never left, I loved it. To begin with I was just helping out with the sets, painting the walls, nailing things into the floor and doing odd jobs. I was sent there to keep out of trouble, but I never thought about acting before that at all. Then I discovered I liked the people doing drama far more than most of the other people at my school. I spent so much time there that eventually someone asked me to be in a play, it had nothing whatsoever to do with my acting ability. I found out that I loved acting and I am very glad it happened.”Hugh Dancy