June 16, 2013 will mark the 50th anniversary of the launch of the Russian Vostok 6 mission, which was the first time a female cosmonaut had been sent into space. That cosmonaut’s name is Valentina Tereshkova, and even at 76 years of age, her desire for adventure has yet to die down.
While speaking at a pre-celebration for the anniversary, Tereshkova made it clear that she was ready to go to Mars, even if it meant never coming back. You guys migth recall the overwhelming response to the one-way ticket to Mars volunteer program. I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure Tereshkova pulls rank over anyone else in this situation.
“Of course, it’s a dream to go to Mars and find out whether there was life there or not,” she said. “If there was, then why did it die out? What sort of catastrophe happened?”
Seemingly without a sense of irony, Tereshkova decried space travel as a luxury instead of a privilege, saying that “only specialists should be making space flights because, while there have been a lot of flights and more than 50 astronauts, there is still a lot that hasn’t been studied.” But of course, if they can “bring some use working aboard a spaceship,” then she’s all for it. I guess the last 30 years of reverence diluted her memory of being a civilian parachutist before being chosen for the three-day orbit.
In any case, her former status doesn’t take away from her legacy and her backbone. She admitted the Mars trip would be a suicide trip, but kicked death in its smelly crotch and volunteered, saying, “I’m ready.” It’s the moment that biopics are made of. And hey, maybe she could find that Soviet lander that’s stuck up there.
Interestingly, she also shared a secret that she’s held onto for the past 30 years. Apparently there was a technical error that could have made her atmosphere re-entry a disastrous one had it not been corrected in time. When she landed, the father of the Soviet space program, Sergei Korolyov, begged her not to to tell anyone. Just goes to show you can never trust a woman whose death was almost on your hands. This would be an amazing event, though highly unlikely given her advanced age and the project not being an immediate one. Who else wants to volunteer?