The first woman in space was from Russia, from the Soviet Union. Moreover, the first two women-cosmonauts were from there: Valentina Tereshkova in 1963 and Svetlana Savitskaya in 1982. NASA waited until the era of space shuttles, before sending women into space, and Sally Ryde was the first American in space only in 1983.
But since Ryde broke this barrier 35 years ago, 50 other Americans have been in space. And only two women from Russia – Elena Kondakova (1994 and 1997) and Elena Serov (2014). Also, two women flew from China, Japan and Canada, and one from France, India, Italy, South Korea and the United Kingdom.
How many women were in space?
In the future, this inequality, in all likelihood, will only increase. In the last two classes of NASA astronauts, in 2013 and 2017, nine of the twenty candidates selected were women. In Russia in the last two classes in 2012 and 2018 there was only one woman, Anna Kikina. Subsequently, she was expelled from the cosmonaut corps in 2014 for unknown reasons. After a public protest, it was restored, but it is not known whether it will ever fly.
And it’s not that she is a woman, but that Roskosmos has a list of astronauts waiting for the first flight. None of the Kikina class of 2012 did not fly, as experienced astronauts are still waiting for a second flight. The manned “Soyuz” is launched four times a year and usually takes one astronaut. There are 29 cosmonauts in the active corps of Russia, and Kikina is the only woman left after Serova’s departure.
Last week, Russia announced a new set of cosmonaut trainees: eight people selected from a pool of 420 applicants. (There was no separation on the floor). The competition was open to all Russians aged 35 and under with a degree in engineering, science or flight disciplines.
Why are there no women? Former cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev, now executive director of space programs of Roskosmos, says that Russian women do not particularly want to become cosmonauts, unlike men. “One of the basic requirements for those who want to join the team is determination, the desire to become an astronaut,” says Krikalev. “Apparently, the percentage of women who want to become cosmonauts is slightly lower.”