Hey Sky, Take Off Your Hat! I'm On My Way!


  1. Hey sky, take off your hat! I'm on my way!
  2. The Chandrayaan moon craft

This week in space history

I covered Sally Ride two weeks ago (click here), but there's an even bigger first I bet few of us Americans have heard of! On June 16, 1963 Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space on Vostok 6!

That's a lot of bling - fitting for a "Hero of the Soviet Union" (USSR's highest honor)

After Yuri Gagarin's flight, the Soviets envisioned putting a woman in space next, so a female astronaut corp of 5 women was selected, including Tereshkova. All the women were experienced skydivers, and they quickly received accelerated training to prepare for spaceflight, including being in a thermal chamber of temperatures over 70$^\circ$C and spending 10 days secluded in an isolation chamber. Tereshkova stood out as the prime candidate due to her proletarian background - her father was a former tractor driver and war hero killed in World War II, and she herself had previously been a textile factory worker. Supposedly, even Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev directly influenced her selection!

Yuri Gagarin and Valentina Tereshkova - the first man and woman in space

During the flawless launch, Tereshkova recited a verse from Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, "Hey sky, take off your hat! I'm on my way!" Tereshkova spent almost 3 days in space, piloting the spacecraft and taking pictures while researchers recorded data on the effects of spaceflight on the female body. The only in-flight problems were: her helmet headset didn't work well, the food they packed her was so bad she actually threw up, and flight planners packed toothpaste but forgot a toothbrush (oops)!

Tereshkova holding the Sochi Olympic torch in 2014

Vostok 6 was the only female solo mission in the history of spaceflight, a distinction Tereshkova may hold forever since solo missions don't happen anymore. There were plans for more female cosmonauts, but they eventually got shelved (probably as the race to the moon heated up), and it wouldn't be until the early 1980s before the next women, Svetlana Savitskaya and Sally Ride, made it to space. As for Tereshkova, she's still alive today at the age of 82! She served in prominent government positions in Soviet and post-Soviet Russia since her spaceflight. 

Current events

I haven't covered the Indian space program on Astronomical Returns yet! The Indian Space Research Organization's (ISRO) greatest achievement thus far is definitely their Mangalyaan Mars orbiter in 2014, which made them only the fourth country to reach Mars, but they've got another huge milestone coming up. The Chandrayaan-2 mission is set for July 14, 2019 and will deliver an ambitious orbiter-lander-rover trifecta to the lunar south pole. If successful, India will become the fourth country to put a rover on the moon

Chandrayaan-2 will be launched on the GSLV Mark III, India's most powerful rocket 

The name Chandrayaan (चन्द्रयान-२) is Sanskrit for moon vehicle, while the rover's name Pragyan (प्रज्ञान) is Sanskit for "wisdom," excellent names in my opinion! But it's actually been a long road coming - India originally partnered with Russia for this mission, but after Russia's Fobos-Grunt Mars mission failed in 2011, India decided to go it alone. We're all holding our breath, best of luck to India!!

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