Valentina Tereshkova of Russia was the first woman to successfully complete a space mission, having been selected from more than four hundred applicants and five finalists to pilot Vostok 6 on June 16, 1963. The 26-year-old returned to the stratosphere three days later on June 19. At the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics, she was a carrier of the Olympic flag.The former cosmonaut is now 81 years old.
The United States did not send a woman into space until 20 years later when Sally Ride joined the STS-7(7th Shuttle Mission-Challenger 2) mission on June 18, 1983. Born in Los Angeles, she joined NASA in 1978.
Ride was the third woman in space overall, after USSR cosmonauts Valentina Tereshkova (1963) and Svetlana Savitskaya (1982).
Ride remains the youngest American astronaut to have traveled to space, having done so at the age of 32.
After flying twice on the Orbiter Challenger, she left NASA in 1987. She worked for two years at Stanford University‘s Center for International Security and Arms Control, then at the University of California, San Diego as a professor of physics, primarily researching nonlinear optics and Thomson scattering. She served on the committees that investigated the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters, the only person to participate in both.
Ride died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 61 on July 23, 2012.