Valentina on Mars
When I read yesterday that 76-year-old Valentina Tereshkova has applied to go to Mars, I thought: well of course she does.
Ever since she made news as the first woman in space (June 1963 in Vostok 6), Valentina has wanted a return trip – and has been denied it. The Soviets would not hear of it – I read that instead, they dressed her up pretty and sent her out as an ambassador for their space program – public relations, not space exploration, was how her amazing adventure turned out.
Granted, her space adventure offered far more than a young female textile-mill-worker might have dreamed of: with her 48 orbits around the earth and 3 days in space, she logged more flight time than the combined times of all American astronauts who had flown before her. She married a fellow cosmonaut (some suggested this marriage was arranged – yet another PR stunt by the Soviets – Nikita Khrushchev himself officiated at the ceremony), and her baby was the first child born of two space-traveling parents.
And yet Valentina wanted more – another chance to test her limits, to prove herself, to add to the scientific knowledge amassed by each space mission.
Government-led space exploration by humans in both the US and USSR severely limited the application and approval process for astronauts and cosmonauts. Valentina got lucky the first time around – the Soviets searched in vain for a female pilot, couldn’t find one, so opted for what they considered the next best thing – a female sky-diver, and Valentina belonged to an amateur sky-diving club.
Mars may be her last, best chance to get lucky again. You go, woman!