Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova is a retired Russian cosmonaut, engineer, and politician.
She is the first woman to have flown in space, having been selected from more than 400 applicants and five finalists to pilot Vostok 6 on 16 June 1963.
Before her recruitment as a cosmonaut, Tereshkova was a textile-factory assembly worker and an amateur skydiver.
She became a prominent member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, holding various political offices. She remained politically active following the collapse of the Soviet Union and is regarded as a hero in post-Soviet Russia and much of the world.
Having orbited Earth 48 times, Tereshkova remains the only woman ever to have been on a solo space mission.
In 2013, she offered to go on a one-way trip to Mars if the opportunity arose. At the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics, she was a carrier of the Olympic flag.
Happy 81st Birthday Valentina! You inspired lots of little girls back in 1963 who until then had thought that space exploration was strictly for the boys.
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Photo credit: RIA Novosti archive, image #612748 / Alexander Mokletsov / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons