Very few people have experienced the thrill and anticipation of being launched into space. In an interview in 1998, Sally Ride described this experience.
“When you’re getting ready to launch into space, you’re sitting on a big explosion waiting to happen. So most astronauts getting ready to lift off are excited and very anxious and worried about that explosion.”
She went on to explain if something goes wrong in that moment, there is little you can do about it. While the fear of riding a rocket into space seems very real and reasonable, it failed to stop these pioneers in space exploration.
Mark You Calendars
June brought women to space and welcomed a new era of Russian-American cooperation. Here are four of our greatest hits for June.
June 16, 1963
After completing 48 orbits aboard Vostok 6, Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova returns to Earth, marking the first time a woman went to space. Live video of the mission was broadcast by Soviet state television. During the mission, data was collected to analyze the female body’s reaction to spaceflight.
Valentina Tereshkova is recognized as a Hero of the Soviet Union and the Vostok 6 capsule is now on display at the RKK Energia Museum in Korolyov.
June 18, 1983
Almost exactly 20 years after Russians launched Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. She is also the youngest American astronaut to have traveled to space. On her flight aboard the Challenger, Sally Ride, along with four other crew members, conducted pharmaceutical experiments and deployed two communications satellites.
Despite the significance of her mission and status as the first American woman in space, Sally Ride insisted she only saw herself one way, and that was as an astronaut.
June 20, 1944
V-2 Rocket was the world’s first long-range guided ballistic missile. It’s launch marked the first spaceflight in history. Produced and launched by Nazi Germany, the V-2 Rocket became the first man-made object to cross what would later be defined as the Kármán line.
June 29, 1995
Millions watch on live television as the Space Shuttle Atlantis and its seven crew members launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 27. When Atlantis docked with the Russian space station Mir, it marked the first shuttle-station hookup. Cosmonauts welcomed the shuttle crew by broadcasting Russian folk songs.
It took two hours to dock. Astronaut Robert “Hoot” Gibson had to maintain speeds under one foot every 10 seconds as he maneuvered the 100-ton shuttle to within 3 inches of Mir. The docking lasted for five days and the mission was regarded as the beginning of “a new era of friendship and cooperation.”