#8: Nearly 55 years after her flight aboard the Vostok 6 spacecraft, which lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on June 16, 1963, Tereshkova remains the only woman ever to have completed a solo space mission.
#7: In the course of her mission aboard the Vostok 6, which lasted 2 days, 22 hours and 41 minutes, Tereshkova, then 26, racked up more time in space than the combined time of all American astronauts who had flown up to that time. Orbiting Earth 48 times, the Vostok 6 flew 1.97 million km with Tereshkova onboard.
#6: Tereshkova's call sign during her mission was 'Chaika' – Russian for Seagul, a name which the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, bestowed her. Gagarin and legendary Soviet rocket designer Sergei Korolyov kept in touch with Tereshkova throughout her mission, and the two cosmonauts remained friends until Gagarin's death in 1968.
Tereshkova later recalled that when she first made it into space, she uttered the phrase "Hey sky, take off your hat, I'm on my way!", and that she was reprimanded for this by Gagarin, who urged her to stay focused.
#5: Tereshkova was the first civilian to fly into space, and received the honorary title of major-general of aviation in order to be inducted into the Soviet Cosmonaut Corps.
#4: Tereshkova was selected for her historic flight from among a group of over 400 applicants, which was later whittled down to five. The grueling, classified, six-month training process included courses on rocketry and spacecraft engineering, over 100 parachute jumps, training onboard a MiG-15UTI fighter jet, weightlessness, isolation, centrifuge testing and more.
Due to her character, solid family background, and personal charm, cosmonaut trainer Nikolai Kamanin would dub Tereshkova as "Gagarin in a skirt."
#3: Tereshkova's flight almost ended in tragedy, something she kept a secret for nearly forty years. In 2004, it was revealed that a coding error in the Vostok 6's control program had programmed the craft to ascend out of the Earth's atmosphere instead of descending upon the initiation of the landing procedure.
Fortunately, Tereshkova noticed the error in time, and with Gagarin and Korolyev's help, the problem was corrected, and the Vostok 6 successfully descended and landed. Upon touchdown in Altai, southern Siberia, Tereshkova suffered a bruised nose, but was otherwise unharmed.
#2: Following Tereshkova's flight, Soviet space program officials planned to create a whole detachment of women cosmonauts. The plans were interrupted by a series of tragedies. In 1966, Sergei Korolyev died, followed by Gagarin, and in 1971, a trio of Soviet cosmonauts died aboard the Soyuz 11 during reentry. These events, coupled with the perceived negative publicity of women dying in space, led to the scrapping of the specifically women's cosmonaut program. Another woman wouldn't go to space until 1982 with Svetlana Savitskaya's mission onboard the Salyut 7 space station. Savitskaya would go on to become the first woman to perform a spacewalk in July 1984.
For Tereshkova, Gagarin's death proved a double tragedy, because it meant the end of her career as a cosmonaut. Soviet authorities did everything they could to keep her safe, even temporarily forbidding her to fly on airplanes, and never allowed her to fly another mission to space. Even in her later years, Tereshkova has admitted that she still dreams about space flight. She's said that she would agree to a one-way mission to Mars in a heartbeat.
#1: Tereshova has always been a strong advocate of women's rights, and has talked about the subject at length. She once quipped that "A bird cannot fly with only one wing. Human space flight cannot develop any further without the active participation of women."