The first American woman went to space 32 years ago today — 20 years after the Soviets

On June 18, 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman to go into space. The image above from NASA shows the liftoff of her space shuttle, Challenger. The image was taken by a handheld 70mm camera from another spacecraft, which monitored the weather at launch and landing site.

Ride actually wasn’t the first woman in space: That title goes to Soviet astronaut Valentina Tereshkova, who orbited the Earth 48 times in 1963, 20 years before Ride’s flight.

Tereshkova was barely noticed in American media coverage at the time, though a feature spread in LIFE Magazine did note her new hairdo and blue eyes. As wrote, some said Tereshkova’s flight was a Space Race publicity stunt, while one NASA spokesman said the idea of a woman in space made him “physically ill.”


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