This week we celebrate the spaceflight anniversaries of two important women who changed the course of human space exploration - Valentina Tereshkova and Sally Ride. Hailing from the Soviet Union, Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman to fly into space 50 years ago on June 16. Sally Ride followed 20 years later on June 18, becoming the first American woman in space.
Although women were qualified and had the proven ability to endure the challenges of space missions, human spaceflight was dominated by men during the beginning of the space race. Sending Valentina Tereshkova into space was a strategic decision by the Soviet Union to compete with the United States. At that time, NASA astronauts needed to be qualified to be a military test pilot which inadvertently eliminated the possibility for women to become astronauts. This was not an act of discrimination, there were simply no women military pilots yet. In 1983, Sally Ride became an inspiration to young girls when NASA sent her to space aboard the space shuttle Challenger and proved that they can accomplish anything they set their mind to.
For the full story visit the NASA website.