17. Svetlana Savitskaya
The Soviet Union had plans to train other female cosmonauts after Valentina Tereshkova’s historic 1963 mission. However, such training became so delayed that it would be another 19 years until Svetlana Savitskaya became the second woman in space in 1982. Later, she would also become the first woman to fly into space twice, as well as the first female astronaut to perform a spacewalk.
Savitskaya began her career as a pilot, in both sport and test capacities. Early on, she set multiple world records on military aircraft, as well as team parachuting. She began training as a cosmonaut in 1980. Two years later, Savitskaya flew aboard the Soyuz T-7 mission.
Though critics at the time were concerned about a woman’s ability to withstand the rigors of spaceflight and the long, often exhausting hours spent on spacewalks, Savitskaya proved them wrong. And while she was initially presented with some cringe-worthy sexism – one male crew member reportedly gave her an apron and told her to “get to work” – she was able to establish more professional and effective working relationships with them.
Savitskaya retired in 1993, having gained the rank of Major in the Russian Air Force. Like Valentina Tereshkova, Savitskaya then went on to have a successful political career in the former Soviet Union.