On the afternoon of Sunday, June 16, 1963, Valeriy Bykovsky was in Earth orbit. He'd been up a little under a day, safely inside his Vostok 5 capsule, when he gained a companion: Valentina Tereshkova in Vostok 6. The two cosmonauts' joint mission was similar to the joint Vostok 3/4 mission that had flown the previous August, but this mission had a twist. Tereshkova was the first woman in space. On Sunday, she'll be celebrating the 50 year anniversary of this historic feat.
ANALYSIS: First Woman in Space Wants to Go to Mars
Towards the end of 1961, Sergei Korolev, the Soviet space program's Chief Designer and mastermind behind the nation's earliest space triumphs, was looking for a new first in space. Having already launched Yuri Gagarin and Gherman Titov into orbit, he needed something new to maintain the Soviets' lead over America in space. One idea he had was to launch a woman. A female cosmonaut would send the message that the Soviet Union valued its citizens equally and give little girls throughout the nation the belief that they, too, could go into space some day.