Phased Out With Vostok: The Female Cosmonaut Class
The early Soviet cosmonauts, from left to right, standing: Yuri Gagarin, V.F. Bikovsky, B.B. Yagorov, P.I. Belyaev, P.R. Popovich, and V. M. Komarov. Seated, left to right: K.P. Feoktistov, Valentina V. Nikolaeva-Tereshkova, Alexi Leonov, A. G. Nikolaev, and G.C. Titov. Valentina V. Nikolaeva-Tereshkova was the only female cosmonaut to be launched into space until 1982.
7. Liv Arnesen
March 30, 2012 -
Men tend to dominant the historic tales of adventurous daring-do and new places discovered, as the traditional position of women kept them out of the exploration business. But many of women have bucked that trend, and OurAmazingPlanet wants to give them their due. From polar extremes to the depths of the oceans, women explorers have been charting new territory all around the world. Here are seven women who have changed the world and shattered glass ceilings for all explorers. Liv Arnesen is a Norwegian explorer who made international headlines when she became the first woman to ski solo to the South Polein 1994 — a 50-day expedition of 745 miles (1,200 kilometers). Together with explorer Ann Bancroft, she is organizing an international expedition team of six women, from six continents, on an 800-mile (1,300-km), 80-day long expedition to the South Pole in November 2012. They dedicated the new adventure to the issue of international access to clean water. [Their website: YourExpedition.com]
Courtesy Williams College
6. Ann Bancroft Ann Bancroft is a "Jane-of-all-exploration-trades." She was the first woman to reach the North Pole on foot and by dogsled, which she accomplished in 1986. She was also the first woman to cross both polar ice caps to reach the North and South Poles, as well as the first woman to ski across Greenland. In 1993 Bancroft led a four-woman expedition to the South Pole on skis; this expedition was the first all-female expedition to cross the ice to the South Pole. In 2001, Ann and her friend Liv Arnesen (see number 7) became the first women to ski across Antarctica.
NEWS: Antarctic Women Explorers Head Back to the Ice
5. Junko Tabei In 1975, Tabei became the first woman to summit Everest. She was an avid mountain-climber in Japan when the Yomiuri newspaper sent an all-woman team to Nepal to take on the challenge of climbing the world's highest peak. Fifteen women were selected out of hundreds of applicants. As the day grew closer, tragedy struck the group when the women were camping at an altitude of 6,300 meters and an avalanche struck the team's camp. Tabei lost consciousness for six minutes until her Sherpa guide dug her out. Twelve days after the avalanche, she became the first woman to summit Everest, taking the same route as Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953. While Tabei has slowed her climbing with age, her goal is to climb the highest peak in every country in the world. She is the director of Himalayan Adventure Trust of Japan, an organization working on a global level to preserve mountain environments.
Bonnie L. Campbell | USFWS
Sylvia Earle Earle is an oceanographer with an explorer's heart. Since 1995 she has been a National Geographic explorer-in-residence, sometimes called "Her Deepness"; or "The Sturgeon General." Earle has led more than 60 expeditions worldwide involving in excess of 7,000 hours underwater in connection with her research. She holds the recordfor the deepest women's solo free dive (going down to 3,281 feet (1 km). In 1979, she made an open-ocean dive in a special pressurized suit to the sea floor near Oahu, setting a women's depth record of 1,250 feet (0.4 km). At the bottom, she detached from the vessel and explored the depths for 2.5 hours with only a communication line connecting her to the submersible, and nothing at all connecting her to the world above. Photo: Wyland and Dr. Sylvia Earle anticipate their first dive together at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge -- the 'window' into the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. VIDEO: Cool Jobs, Adventurer
3. Valentina Tereshkova Although most people think of Sally Ride when they think of women in space, Russian Valentina Tereshkova was, in fact, the first female to fly. She was selected out of more than four hundred applicants, then five finalists, to pilot the Vostok 6 on June 16, 1963, becoming the first woman and the first civilian in space. During her three-day mission, she performed various tests on herself to collect data on the female body's reaction to spaceflight. Before being recruited as a cosmonaut, Tereshkova was a textile-factory assembly worker and an amateur parachutist. After the dissolution of the first group of female cosmonauts in 1969, she became a prominent member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, holding various political offices. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, she stayed in politics and remains revered as a hero in post-Soviet Russia
Ronne Antarctic Research Expedition
2. Jackie Ronne Edith "Jackie" Ronne was the first woman to explore Antarctica. At the age of 28, Ronne followed her husband, Finn Ronne, an explorer, on an expedition to Antarctica in 1947. She was the first woman ever to brave the winter season of Antarctica, along with Canadian Jennie Darlington. Ronne's goal for the expedition was to write her adventures for the North American Newspaper Alliance and the New York Times. Often remembered as "Antarctica's First Lady," Ronne had a history degree from George Washington University that provided her with the skills to chronicle the adventures she shared with the expedition team during their "winter." Photo: Jackie Ronne and her husband Finn on skis in Antarctica during an expedition from 1946-1948.
1. Cindy Lee Van Dover Van Dover had an early fascination with Jules Verne's Captain Nemo character from the "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" while growing up on the New Jersey shore chasing crabs. Her love of exploration and the oceans led her to oceanography, with academic adventures in ecology and invertebrate zoology. Her work deals with the ecology of deep sea vent communities -- not quite 20,000 leagues under the sea, but just about as close as an explorer can get on this planet. Cindy was the first female pilot of Alvin, a deep-diving submersible. She has led 48 Alvin expeditions, which have led to the discovery of many new species and strange ecological relationships within the deep sea vent assemblages of mussels, shrimps, tube worms and bacteria.
More From Our Amazing Planet
In Images: Sylvia Earle's 'Searching for Wisdom' Expedition Antarctica: 100 Years of Exploration (Infographic) Extreme Living: Scientists at the End of the Earth Copyright 2012 OurAmazingPlanet, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Valentina Tereshkova is a familiar name: The first woman in space launched as the pilot of Vostok 6 on June 16, 1963. But she wasn’t the only woman the Soviet Union trained to fly in space. There were five women vying for the spot Tereshkova eventually occupied, and more might have followed in her footsteps had the Vostok program not been phased out.
The impetus to launch a female cosmonaut was political in nature. After beating the Americans with the first satellite and man in orbit, putting a woman in space was just another first the Soviet Union could lord over their Western counterparts. The idea was approved at the end of 1961 by the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Meeting this deadline meant taking in a new class of female cosmonaut candidates.
The search for qualified women began much in the same way the search for qualified men had years before: deciding what backgrounds and skills were most desired and finding those who fit the bill. Officials looked at women involved with the military, acrobatics, sports involving flying, sky-diving, and even those familiar with parachute jumping (the Soviet Vostok spacecraft has cosmonauts eject and land after returning from orbit). There were also practical considerations, like the size of the spacecraft. Female candidates had to fit inside the cramped cabin. As a reference point Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, was just five feet two inches. America’s first man in space, Alan Shepard, was a relatively gigantic five feet eleven inches.
Fifty-eight women’s files eventually reached Nikolai Kamanin, the head of the cosmonaut training center, midway through January 1962. He was somewhat unimpressed by the caliber of candidates, but also knew that the high automation inside the Vostok spacecraft would lighten the load on the pilot. Kamanin narrowed the female candidate pool to 23 women, then cut another five after they failed to pass the medical examination.
The remaining 18 women were split into two groups of nine and subjected to extensive interviews and medical examinations. Eleven women made it past this stage, but only five were ultimately selected to being training for spaceflight: Tatyana Kuznetsova, Valentina Ponomareva, Irina Solovyova, Valentina Tereshkova, and Zhanna Yorkina. Kuznetsova dropped out of training, leaving four women fighting for the role of pilot on Vostok 6, a tandem flight with the twin Vostok 5 spacecraft.
The women received a somewhat frosty reception from their male counterparts upon arrival at the cosmonaut training facility. Many of the men felt women should be anywhere near an airplane let alone a spacecraft. They were unconvinced launching a women into orbit had any intrinsic value, arguing that a potential mother’s life shouldn’t be put at risk. The dangerous work should be left to the men.
But the male cosmonauts slowly started changing their tune when the women got into training. The female candidates demonstrated equivalent aptitude for the job as the men, earning their respect as they went through tests in the centrifuge and altitude chamber. In some cases outperforming the men; Tereshkova emerged from a long-duration isolation test in better spirits than some of her male counterparts had.
There was an unmistakable change in attitude of some men, too, as they started to see the women as attractive women. As relative veterans, the men would offer the women advice during particularly complex or difficult tests. Cosmonaut Andrian Nikolayev, the pilot of Vostok 3, was often seen in the test area while Tereshkova was in training. They eventually married and their daughter, Elena Andrianovna Nikolaeva-Tereshkova, was the first person born to two people who had been in space.
While the women were training and vying for the prized spot on Vostok 6, the whole Soviet spaceflight program was changing. The Vostok spacecraft was quickly reaching its technical limits, threatening to become obsolete. Chief Designer Sergei Korolev was pushing to launch the new Soyuz spacecraft, the one that would could rendezvous, docking, and eventually make circumlunar flights, but the program was falling behind.
Between December of 1962 and July of 1963, Korolev came up with a plan to extend Vostok’s usefulness. He focused on a handful of research and development missions with dogs and humans. He wanted to push a mission to 11 days in orbit and push the spacecraft’s orbital altitude to nearly 800 miles; these conditions were more indicative of the stresses associated with a science mission or a flight to the moon.
These missions would also serve as a testbed for more daring goals like spacewalks. A dog would be the first living being to leave the safety of a spacecraft in orbit, followed by a man on a later flight. These extended goals demanded changes to the spacecraft, including a better parachute-based landing system and some capacity for cosmonauts to perform EVAs.
In May of 1963, Kamanin gathered the female cosmonauts together and announced that Valentina Tereshkova would be the pilot of Vostok 6. She was well qualified and had the right pedigree; it was the obvious choice. The remaining women, he promised, would fly on later missions. And they might have had a spot in the extended Vostok missions. Though no missions were ever planned, the rough schedule at the time would have had Vostok 7 be a 30-day animal flight, Vostok 8 an 8-day manned mission, and Vostok 9/10 a 10-day tandem flight.
By the time Tereshkova was given her flight assignment these missions were unlikely to ever see the launch pad. Either Korolev or Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev (accounts vary) wanted to fast-track a spacecraft that could compete with the American’s Gemini. The extended Vostok missions were cancelled and the spacecraft overhauled into the Voskhod spacecraft, one that could hold multiple cosmonauts and allow one to step out for a spacewalk. The female cosmonaut class did fit into the Voskhod and Soyuz plans. It was 19 years before another woman would fly in space.
Sources: “The First Soviet Cosmonaut Team” by Colin Burgess and Rex Hall; “The Rocket Men” by Rex Hall and David Shayler.