VALENTINA TERESHKOVA, the first woman in space.

Bulletin - - Contents - Pho­tos: Ria Novosti / Sput­nik / Key­stone; kts7 / is­tock

In 1963, you were the first woman in space. How did your ca­reer be­gin?

I had al­ways wanted to go sky­div­ing, and I joined a fly­ing club at age 18. It was a para­mil­i­tary fly­ing club that was well known in Rus­sia. I didn’t tell my mother at first, but I trained prac­ti­cally ev­ery week­end. I com­pleted more than 90 jumps to land or wa­ter – not just by day, but by night as well.

How did you come to be se­lected by the Soviet space pro­gram?

The Soviet Union wanted to re­cruit women to be­come cos­mo­nauts. The most im­por­tant cri­te­rion was be­ing able to para­chute. The space­ship pretty much flew it­self, but you had to be able to para­chute from the craft to land. There were five of us women who were tested, and I was the one se­lected. But there was no jeal­ousy. Even to­day, there’s still a bond be­tween us, a ca­ma­raderie that never goes away.

What goes through your head when you’re float­ing through space and look down at the earth?

Ev­ery­one who has been in space, re­gard­less of where they’re from, says the same thing: How unbelievably beau­ti­ful the Earth looks from space. You un­der­stand how very im­por­tant it is to pre­serve the planet.

What ef­fect has your space voy­age had on your life?

I go around the world to meet as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble, to talk to peo­ple and es­tab­lish a con­nec­tion with them. I tell them that we have to do what­ever we can so as not to spoil our planet. Peo­ple shouldn’t waste money on wars, but rather come to­gether to dis­cuss how to de­fend the world from cos­mic threats and as­ter­oids. The next big threat from an as­ter­oid is in 2029. Let’s hope it doesn’t hit the earth.

By Mary De­jevsky In 1963, Valentina Tereshkova, 81, be­came the first woman in space, and she is the only woman in the his­tory of space flight to un­der­take a solo flight.

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