June 16, 1963: Valentina Tereshkova becomes the first woman in space.

When Valentina Tereshkova was twenty-four, the Soviet Union sent the first man into space - Yuri Gagarin - on the Vostok 1 spaceflight. In October of that same year, it was decided that the Soviet space program would also work towards putting a woman in space. The qualifications for female cosmonaut candidates were similar to the male requirements - mostly consisting of physical and ideological specifications. Because Vostok was completely automatic, no piloting experience was required, and, in 1962, Tereshkova was chosen as one of five candidates. Having only worked in the textile industry (and possessing some experience skydiving), she was not particularly qualified. 

After training extensively with the other candidates, Tereshkova was chosen to pilot Vostok 6 into space; at twenty-six, she was ten years younger than the youngest NASA astronaut. On June 16, 1963, she became the first woman (and first civilian) in space.

The American space program would not send a woman into space until twenty years later (almost to the exact date) on June 18, 1983. Interestingly enough, the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft (carrying China's first female astronaut) launched only hours ago.

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