Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman to go into space when she flew Vostok 6 on June 16, 1963. After a two-hour countdown, Vostok 6 launched faultlessly, and Tereshkova became the first woman in space. She spent almost three days in space and orbited Earth 48 times. That was her only trip into space.
After Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space in 1961, Tereshkova volunteered for the Soviet space program. Although she did not have any experience as a pilot, she was accepted into the program because of her 126 parachute jumps. At the time, cosmonauts had to parachute from their capsules seconds before they hit the ground on returning to Earth. Astronaut Valentina Tereshkova been selected from more than 400 applicants and five finalists to pilot Vostok 6 on 16 June 1963.
Under the direction of Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev, four women were selected to be trained for a special woman-in-space program. Of the four women selected, only Valentina Tereshkova completed a space mission, pilotting the Vostok 6. Tereshkova is also the only woman ever to have been on a solo space mission. In 1969 the Soviet Union dissolved the first group of female cosmonauts.
It was to be a dual mission. Cosmonaut Valeriy Bykovsky launched on Vostok 5 on June 14, 1963. Two days later, Tereshkova launched. The two spacecraft took different orbits and came within 3 miles (5 km) of each other. Tereshkova did not reply during several communications sessions. To this day it is not known if she was paralyzed with fear, or if there was an equipment failure. With a single flight, she logged more flight time (70.8 hours) than the combined times of all American astronauts who had flown before that date.