First woman spacewalk Science

Savitskaya walks in space

A stamp honouring Savitskaya's achievement.   | Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In 1963, Valentina Tereshkova had become the first woman to fly in space. But it took almost two decades before another woman was put in space. That woman was Svetlana Yevgenyevna Savitskaya. And she wouldn’t just become the second woman in space but would in fact go on to create a first of her own…

Savitskaya was destined to be a cosmonaut right from her birth. Her father, Yevgeny Savitsky, was a World War II fighter pilot who had gone on to become Deputy Commander of the Soviet Air Defences. He was also twice named a Hero of the Soviet Union. So when Savitskaya decided that she wished to become a pilot at the age of 16, having been inspired by her father, it did not come as a surprise.

Learning in secret

What was surprising, however, was the fact that she went to pursue it in secrecy, hiding it even from her father. Her application to the flying school was rejected due to her age, but that didn’t deter her. She instead took to parachute training, and mastered the skill soon enough.

Her secret though didn’t remain one for long as her father noticed that her school bag was also home to a parachute knife apart from the books that she had to carry. He went on to actively encourage her himself, and within no time she had hundreds of jumps under her belt.

One thing led to another and she finally found herself in the pilot training lessons that she so eagerly anticipated. She attended the prestigious Moscow Aviation Institute and came out with flying colours.

By the time she turned 24, Savitskaya had mastered the trade —she was certified and held the license to fly 20 different types of aircraft. She even piloted a MiG-21 aircraft to a maximum speed of 2683 km/hour – a record at that time.

From sky to space

The progression to a cosmonaut happened next as the Soviets were keen to launch their own team of female astronauts, ahead of NASA’s plans. Though her connections had played a part in her being chosen in the team, she validated it through the training courses, emerging as an important member for the missions that followed.

In 1982, 19 years after Tereshkova had achieved her feat, Savitskaya became the 53rd cosmonaut, but only the second woman, in space. Eight days and several experiments later, she returned to earth.

Her next outing two years later turned out to be more memorable as it gave her the first. In her second spaceflight, this time on a Soyuz T-12, she performed an extravehicular activity on July 25, 1984, conducting welding experiments on the Salyut 7 space station. When Soyuz T-12 returned to earth, Savitskaya surfaced as the first woman to have ever walked in space and also the first woman to visit space twice.


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Printable version | Jul 29, 2021 1:14:52 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/in-school/sh-science/Savitskaya-walks-in-space/article14506198.ece

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