Major General Dr. Tereshkova [b. 06MAR37] was actually honourably inducted into the Soviet Air Force to become a Cosmonaut – the opposite route for most astronauts/cosmonauts of the era. On her own, she rose to the rank of Major General and as a member of the Central Committee of The Communist Party (pictured above in 1969). During her first mission, her scientific notebook and extensive logbooks, with attached photographs led to the study of aerosols in the upper atmosphere of Earth that cause global warming and ultimately, climate change today.
Starting her work-career in a [tyre] tire factory as a poor child laborer in the tailor’s shop, she moved on into an honorable job as a “proletarian textile worker on an assembly line.” She joined the skydiving club at the textile factory as a Young Pioneer. During the heady days of 1963 (when she became the first civilian and and the first woman to command and pilot a space capsule, Vostok 6) as she recounted in a 2013 interview, she always saw herself as a daughter of the working class and not of the elite fighter pilots or engineers from which her fellow Cosmonauts were selected.
This was partly do to the fact that her father was MIA at the beginning of WWII, having been sent into Finland as Nazi Germany invaded Poland, following the Russian-German Alliance in 1939. She was two years old when her father died. After her first mission, she was asked how the Soviet Union should thank her for her service to the country in space. Dr. Tereshkova asked that the government search for, and publish, the location where her father was killed in action, which they did. Her father was a tractor driver and her mother worked in a textile plant. Dr. Tereshkova went to school in 1945 – after WWII – at the age 8. She left school in 1953 at the age of 16, after only 8 years of formal education and continued her studies by correspondence courses.
Having orbited Earth 49 times, Major General Dr. Tereshkova remains the only woman ever, to have been on a solo space mission. She became an aeronautical engineer in the Soviet Air Force, completing her training in both aviation and aeronautical schools; helping in the redesign of the MiG-15UTI after training flights, into the MiG-17. She received her doctorates from both Zhukovsky Air Force Academy (’77) and The University of Edinburgh (’90H).
A favorite photo of Major General Dr. Tereshkova, surrounded by children wishing her well in her civilian clothes (credit: USSR magazine, and RIAN).
Again in simple civilian attire, Major General Dr. Tereshkova above Lenin’s mausoleum. Fellow cosmonauts and politicos put Dr. Tereshkova centre-stage. [credit: USSR Magazine]
On 8 June 1964, nearly one year after her first space flight, she gave birth to her daughter Elena Andrianovna Nikolaeva-Tereshkova, who became a doctor and was the first person to have both a mother and father who had travelled into space.
As a long-standing elected member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, she was consider a leader of that party and the country. As with the Central Committee of the Cook County Democratic Party in Chicago during the Daley Era, while not the very top of the pyramid of power – always occupied by men – she was considered “in the Executive of Power” of the old Soviet Union and Communist Party from 1969-1991. A long-time. She is now a member of United Russia.
[much of the background info in this blog post is from Wikipedia and other sources. Some is from the personal reading of the English-language magazine, USSR, later Soviet Life)