Valentina Tereshkova is a well-known name for everyone. She became the first woman to go into space as a pilot of the spacecraft Vostok-6 on June 16, 1963. But she was not the only woman that the Soviet Union was preparing to fly into space. In total there were five women who fought for the place, but in the end, they chose Tereshkova.
The launch of a cosmonaut woman was also of a political nature. After launching the first satellite and sending the first man into orbit, the Soviet Union took the lead in the space race. But by sending the first woman astronaut into space, the Soviets would definitely become leaders in this field. The idea was approved at the end of 1961 by the Central Committee of the Communist Party.
The selection of candidates was carried out in the same way as in the case of men. Officials selected suitable women from among military men, acrobats, those involved in sports piloting, paragliders, and even those who were familiar with parachuting (which was especially important since the Soviet Vostok spacecraft descended to Earth using parachutes). There were also practical considerations about the size of the spacecraft. Women candidates were supposed to fit inside a cramped cockpit. For example, Yuri Gagarin - the first man to be in space was only five feet and two inches. And the first American astronaut, Alan Shepard, was five feet eleven inches tall.
Fifty-eight questionnaires with applicants finally arrived at Nikolai Kamanin, the head of the training at the space center, in mid-January 1962. He was somewhat surprised by the selection of candidates, but also knew that a high degree of automation inside the Vostok spacecraft could ease the burden on the pilot. Kamanin narrowed down the number of women candidates to 23, and then excluded 5 more after they could not pass a medical examination.
Paratroopers V. Girs and V. Tereshkova. Yaroslavl flying club. 1960 year.
The remaining 18 women were divided into two groups of nine candidates each and underwent numerous conversations and medical examinations. Eleven women did not pass this stage and only five were ultimately selected to begin space flight training. These were: Tatyana Kuznetsova, Valentina Ponomareva, Irina Solovyova, Valentina Tereshkova and Zhanna Yurkina. Kuznetsova dropped out in the learning process, leaving only four candidates struggling to take the place of the pilot Vostok-6, which, along with Vostok-5, were to create a tandem of spacecraft.
Women received a cold welcome from their male colleagues upon arrival at the space training center. Many of the men were convinced that women should not be admitted to control the aircraft, let alone spacecraft. They were also convinced that the life of a potential mother should not be endangered.
Valentina Tereshkova had two stunt doubles.
But male astronauts slowly began to change their attitude towards female astronauts when the latter began to undergo training. The women demonstrated an equivalent ability to work as the men, thus earning their respect, as they passed through the tests in the centrifuge and the pressure chamber with dignity. And in some cases they were better than men, for example Tereshkova, after a long isolation came out in a better mood than her male colleagues.
It can be unmistakably assumed that some men saw attractive women as candidates. As more experienced astronauts, they could always give advice to women in particularly difficult trials. So cosmonaut Andriyan Nikolaev, pilot Vostok-3, often met with Tereshkova when she was trained in the test area. In the end, they got married and their daughter, Elena Andrianovna Nikolaeva-Tereshkova, became the first person born from two cosmonauts. While the women underwent training, competing among themselves for the desired position aboard the Vostok-6, the Soviet space program was undergoing changes. The spacecraft “Vostok” worked at the limit of its technical capabilities and practically outdated itself. Chief Designer Sergey Korolev hurried the launch of the new Soyuz spacecraft, which knew how to get closer and dock and eventually could fly around the Moon, but the program was far behind schedule.
Between December 1962 and July 1963 Korolev proposed a plan to increase the useful functionality and efficiency of the “East”. He relied on several research missions that were supposed to be attended by dogs and people. Korolev insisted on increasing the duration of the orbital flight to 11 days with a parallel increase in the height of the orbit of the spacecraft to almost 1,200 km. Such conditions would more accurately simulate the loads arising during the flight to the moon.
In addition, these missions were supposed to serve as a training ground for more ambitious goals, such as man’s spacewalk. It was planned that the first living creature to leave a safe and cozy spacecraft while it was in orbit would be a dog, and during later flights this achievement will be repeated by humans. To accomplish such goals, it was necessary to make changes to the design of the spacecraft, including making improvements to the parachute-based landing system, as well as to provide for the technical possibility of an astronaut going into space.
In May 1963, Kamanin gathered all the women-cosmonauts and announced that Valentina Tereshkova would be the pilot of Vostok-6. She was highly qualified and had an enviable track record, so the choice was obvious. Kamanin promised that the remaining women would fly into space as part of subsequent missions, in particular, longer flights of “Vostok”. Vostok-7 was supposed to be a long 30-day flight of the animal, Vostok-8 - an 8-day flight with a man on board, and Vostok-9/10 - a 10-day group flight of two ships. By the time Tereshkova was appointed the pilot of the ship, it became apparent that the missions listed above would never start. According to various sources, either Korolev, or Nikita Sergeevich Khrushchev himself insisted on the earliest possible creation of a spacecraft that could become a worthy competitor to the American “Gemini”. The longer flights of the Vostok were canceled, and on the basis of the ship itself, the Voskhod apparatus was created, which could take on board three astronauts and allowed them to go into outer space. Women astronauts as a class did not fit into the plans for flights of the “East” and “Union”. The world saw the second woman-cosmonaut only 19 years later.