Site map

Site update log

About this site

About the author



Related pages:


Gagarin's flight


Vostok-2 mission


Vostok-3 and 4


Vostok project


Vostok launcher

Searching for details:

The author of this page will appreciate comments, corrections and imagery related to the subject. Please contact Anatoly Zak.

Previous chapter: Landing of Vostok-5

Bookmark and Share



Cosmonauts Yuri Gagarin, Pavel Popovich, Valentina Tereshkova and the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev on the Red Square.

In the evening of June 20, 1963, Korolev and Rudenko, taking advantage of Kamanin's trip to the airport with departing officials (and despite protests from doctors), "smuggled" Bykovsky and Tereshkova on a boat trip along the Volga River. When Kamanin returned and demanded an explanation, Marshal Rudenko's excuse was that they simply wanted to satisfy the wishes of the cosmonauts.

In the morning of June 21, Rudenko, Gagarin, Titov, Nikolaev and other Air Force officials boarded an An-10 aircraft for a flight to Moscow. Korolev and Tyulin followed them at 2 p.m.

Bykovsky and Tereshkova stayed behind with Kamanin, while the bruise on Valentina's face was still well visible. Despite that, Kamanin followed a recommendation of the State Commission Chairman to organize a "press-conference" with Bykovsky and Tereshkova for around 60 "journalists" selected by Soviet authorities to "cover" the mission. The event took place between 3 and 4 p.m., after Kamanin had coached the cosmonauts on how to answer questions.

On June 22, the cosmonauts finally made a grand entrance in Moscow, as had all their predecessors.

A large celebration was scheduled at the Vnukovo airport, where cosmonauts landed onboard an Il-18 escorted by fighter jets. Festivities continued on Red Square with Khrushchev's participation. At 9:00 p.m., fireworks were launched over Moscow.

Along with a Hero of the Soviet Union awards, Bykovsky and Tereshkova got 15,000 rubles each out of reserve funds of the Soviet of Ministers (a fantastic amount of money by Soviet standards.) They and their closest relatives got nice clothes. Each also got a Volga car, a piano, a TV, a turntable, a vacuum, a fridge, a washing machine, a carpet, a tea set, a dining set and bedding sets.

By the end of 1963, Tereshkova married fellow cosmonaut Andriyan Nikolaev, who had flown Vostok-3 a year earlier. At the wedding, Western reporters noticed two individuals, who were identified as pioneers of the Soviet rocket development in the 1920s and 1930s: Sergei Korolev and Valentin Glushko. It was a good indication that the two were now in charge of the Soviet space program. (651)

Following her wedding, Tereshkova was also given a three-bedroom apartment in Moscow, however the young couple then wrote to the Central Committee that they worked 50 miles from the capital (at the TsPK) and it would be too difficult for them to commute to work and that they were very happy with their apartment at the base. (465)


Behind the official facade of Soviet propaganda, Tereshkova's mission steered plenty controversy in the patriarchal Soviet rocket industry. Her initial "failure" to conduct the attitude control exercise reportedly gave ammunition to Air Force officials arguing that only experienced military pilots should be allowed at the controls of spacecraft. Korolev who had fought vigorously to put engineers at the helm of the vehicles they were designing could understandably feel that Tereshkova had let him down. He famously displayed old-fashioned sexism, reportedly saying that he "would never agree to launch a broad again." Chertok later claimed that Korolev's associates mostly viewed these outbursts as a show or an attempt to release stress. At lunch following the incident, Korolev's chief test specialist Leonid Voskresensky reminded the chief designer that Catherine the Great had had no prior training in ruling the Russian Empire, yet had done much better than all her male successors. Korolev reportedly made a mean face for a moment but then smiled and kept eating silently.

Shortly after the flight, Chertok tried to get Tereshkova's side of the story in a two-hour interview with his engineering team, however Kamanin replied that there was no time in her hectic post-flight schedule. Chertok complained to Korolev and just in half an hour Korolev called back and said that Tereshkova would be in Chertok's office located at the secondary campus of OKB-1 on the former territory of the Artillery Factory No. 88. Korolev told Chertok to keep the number of participants to an absolute minimum and instruct everybody to abstain from asking for autographs or any other displays of adulation. Still, Chertok's numerous associates were eager to participate, so he had to narrow the list to 12 people, who could fit at a large World War II-era table inherited from the director of factory No. 88.

Tereshkova arrived as scheduled in the company of Lelyanov, an assistant to Korolev and a former KGB field officer. Chertok introduced her to his engineers and asked her to re-tell her experience with controlling the spacecraft and her observations. He asked her not to be shy about criticizing the spacecraft. She could hardly start before Korolev appeared in the office. He asked for a confidential 10-minute talk. The actual conversation lasted three times longer and Tereshkova re-appeared looking distrait, practically in tears. Chertok's colleague, Boris Raushenbakh then asked a few questions, but the whole situation was awkward and Chertok then ended the meeting and walked Tereshkova to her car. Chertok promised her to find a better time to listen to her story, but that time apparently never came. He did get to see Tereshkova in tears again at Gagarin's funeral. (466)

The rumors

Soon after Tereshkova's return to Earth, the secrecy surrounding the Soviet space program became a fertile ground for many rumors about her and her mission. Particularly, many years of official silence about the identity of Tereshkova's backup helped to proliferate urban myths in the USSR and Western speculations about a last-minute appointment of Tereshkova to the flight due to an illness of the prime candidate. (50) Even more rumors were surrounding her personal life after the flight.

For the general public it was almost impossible to resist claims that her quick wedding to Nikolaev in November 1963 and a birth of her daughter just a year after Tereshkova's flight was an arranged scientific experiment. (651) These rumors were only solidified by their divorce in 1982.

Despite decades of close the attention to her controversial personality, even half a century later, it was rather difficult to compile a credible account of her mission, with all the missing and sometimes contradicting details mixing facts and fiction. After the end of the official adulation and propaganda of the Soviet era, many of Tereshkova's contemporaries started publishing condescending and dismissive statements about her performance during the flight and exaggerating her failures as a cosmonaut.

According to one such account, during her days at the Zhukovsky Air Force Academy, Tereshkova reportedly shared her arduous experience during the flight with Vasily Seleznev, a navigation systems expert, who taught Tereshkova and other early Soviet cosmonauts at the academy. According to Seleznev's recollections edited and published by his daughter decades later, Tereshkova felt good at the very beginning of the flight and sent upbeat messages to the ground. However, suddenly, she experienced dizziness and severe vomiting. She didn't even have enough time to pick up a trash bag and some vomit escaped into the weightless cabin.

She then felt pain in her lower stomach and, as it transpired later, she was bleeding. (According to some accounts, she did have her period during the flight). According to Seleznev, Tereshkova also struggled with her spacesuit, particularly, with its toilet system, which she found not perfectly suitable for a female body. As a result, she had to cope with remnants of urine, blood and sweat trapped in her spacesuit during a large portion of the flight.

On the second day, remnants of vomit, which remained in the cabin produced a bad smell, giving Tereshkova a headache and dizziness. In an effort to control the smell, she lowered the temperature in the cabin down to 16 degrees C. When the temperature went down, she lowered it still further to eight degrees. At that point, Tereshkova heard a clicking noise and the temperature started going up. Ground stations had detected a failure of the thermal control system, however by that time, the temperature in the cabin had risen to 39 degrees C. When the temperature reached 50 degrees, Tereshkova was ordered to prepare for an emergency landing.

Her fellow cosmonauts later reportedly joked that she left a "hot trail" in the history of cosmonautics. (647) The episode with the temperature does not correspond very well with other accounts, but the description of her vomiting episode seemingly fits into known facts.


Vostok-6 ended the historic missions of the spacecraft in a series which included a total of 13 launches. Six manned vehicles logged a total of 383 hours in space. (84) Flight duration records set by Bykovsky and Tereshkova remain standing for a single man and woman respectively. Tereshkova remains the only woman to have orbited the Earth alone.

During the mission, both cosmonauts made black and white and color photographs. Their photos of the horizon were processed to determine atmospheric brightness at various altitudes. (52)

After a triumphant tour of the globe, this time without leaving the Earth, Tereshkova went on to make a successful political career within the Soviet establishment, however her repeatedly stated desire to fly again was never fulfilled, even though she remained involved with the space program for a number of years. Her backups and rivals among female cosmonauts, Ponomareva and Solovieva, continued training. Korolev reportedly initiated plans to fly a 15 or even 20-day long mission onboard Voskhod spacecraft, which would include a female crew member tasked with a spacewalk. However the mission was canceled along with the Voskhod project after Korolev's death in 1966. No Soviet woman flew into space again until 1982, when Svetlana Savitskaya joined the crew of Soyuz T-7.

One might wonder whether Korolev's pledge to never deal with women again had its effect, or, much more simply, if it was just too difficult for a woman to advance in such a male-dominated field. As before, Savitskaya's mission was prompted by competition with the US -- this time the imminent launch of an American female astronaut onboard the Space Shuttle. While women became common in the US Space Shuttle program during the 1980s and 1990s, they have remained rare exceptions in Russian space flight. Ironically, Russia's legendary Soyuz spacecraft carried more foreign female astronauts than Russian women.

Half a century after Tereshkova's flight, the verdict of history would probably say that Tereshkova's undoubtedly heroic achievement was designed to be a publicity stunt rather than a reflection of real progress for women in the Soviet and Russian society... Or like many other pioneers, she might've been just too far ahead of her time.

Next chapter: Unrealized Vostok missions


Vostok-5 and 6 missions at a glance:

Valery Bykovsky
Valentina Tereshkova
Call sign
Yastreb (Falcon)
Chaika (Seagull)
Backup pilot(s)
Boris Volynov
Irina Solovieva, Valentina Ponomareva
Launch date and time
1963 June 14, 14:58:59 Moscow Decree Time
1963 June 16, 12:29:52 Moscow Decree Time
Launch site
Tyuratam (Baikonur) Site 1
Tyuratam (Baikonur) Site 1
Flight duration
119 hours 6 minutes (505)
2 days 22 hours 50 minutes (505)
Number of orbits
81 (465)
48 (465)
Orbital inclination
64.96 degrees (2)
64.95 degrees (2)
Orbital perigee
174.7 kilometers (2)
180.9 kilometers (2); 183 kilometers (505)
Orbital apogee
222.1 kilometers (2)
231.1 kilometers (2); 233 kilometers (505)
Orbital period
88.27 minutes (2)
88.3 minutes (2)
Landing date and time
1963 June 19, 14:06 Moscow Decree Time (505)
1963 June 19, 11:20 Moscow Decree Time (505)
Landing site
540 kilometers northwest of Karaganda (505)
620 kilometers northeast of Karaganda (505)
Landing site coordinates
53?16' 18" North latitude, 80?27'34" East longitude
Spacecraft mass
4,700 kilograms (2)
4,700 kilograms (2)

Page author: Anatoly Zak; Last update: June 18, 2016

Page editor: Alain Chabot; Last edit: June 30, 2013

All rights reserved




Tereshkova and Bykovsky return to Moscow on June 22, 1963.



A Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev greets Bykovsky and Teeshkova on their return to Moscow.


Tereshkova triumphantly returns to Moscow.


Tereshkova received almost as many honors as Gagarin did two years earlier.


Gagarin and Tereshkova. Credit: RKK Energia


Korolev's OKB-1 organized a tradiational gathering in honor of Tereshkova, however there was a tension behind the scene.



to spacecraft home to Vostok-5-6 home