With little more than a high school education she completed through correspondence, Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space 50 years ago Sunday.
The Soviets selected the 26-year-old factory worker because of her love for skydiving – she had completed more than 125 jumps in her spare time.
She received 18 months of training, and had never flown an airplane, let alone a spacecraft.
Yet, knowing the ropes around a parachute was vital on June 16, 1963, because cosmonauts had to eject from their plummeting capsules to safely return to earth.
Now she wants more women to embrace that same sense of adventure.
“A bird cannot fly with one wing only,” Tereshkova said at a special ceremony organized by the United Nations to honor her milestone. “Human space flight cannot develop any further without the active participation of women.
“More women should actively participate in space flight. There are many well educated women working in the space industry, they are very good candidates.”
Tereshkova’s flight aboard Vostok-6 was 70 hours long, taking her around the earth 48 times.
It was a second significant coup for the Soviet Union after becoming the first nation to send a man into space two years earlier.
Speaking recently to reporters about space travel, Tereshkova said she still has the urge to break barriers.
“Of course, it’s a dream to go to Mars and find out whether there was life there or not,” Tereshkova said, Ria Novosti reported. “If there was, then why did it die out? What sort of catastrophe happened?”
She’ll be roughly 86 if (and that’s a big IF) the much-publicized Mars One project departs for the red planet.
Not that anyone doubts her abilities.
“But we know the human limits. And for us this remains a dream. Most likely the first flight will be one way. But I am ready,” she told reporters.