Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Flight of the Seagull

Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space on June 16, 1963. Vostok 6, with the call sign Seagull, carried Tereshkova for 48 orbits of the Earth over the course of 3 days.

It was only recently revealed (in the last 5 years) that Tereshkova experienced some serious problems during her flight. An error in the onboard computer programming caused her ship to go into a higher orbit rather than descending as intended. She was able to reprogram the computer with data called up from the ground, and she re-entered safely. After she ejected from the capsule just before landing (as the early cosmonauts did), high winds nearly blew her into a nearby lake.

Her flight was another propaganda victory for the USSR in the early space race, ostensibly illustrating the equality of the sexes in Soviet society. However, it would be more than 19 years before the Soviets launched another woman into space. Only three female cosmonauts have flown in the entire history of the Russian space program, while the US has flown more than 40 female astronauts during the Space Shuttle era.

No comments: