On this day in 1984, Svetlana Savitskaya, retired Soviet aviator and cosmonaut, became the first woman to spacewalk. She spent 3 hours and 35 minutes conducting EVA outside the Salyut 7 space station, cutting and welding metals all whilst in space alongside her colleague Vladimir Dzhanibekov. I can barely cut a friggin' steak properly under perfect conditions here on Earth, so mad props to her.
Actually, this isn't Svetlana's first accolade. In 1982, she flew aboard Soyuz T-7 and became the second woman in space. Fun Fact: The first woman, Valentina Tereshkova, was also Soviet-born and launched on the Vostok 6 mission in 1963. It's a shame it took 20 years for another female cosmonaut to head up yonder, but hey. On the 1984 mission, Svetlana was doubly dubbed the first woman to spacewalk and the first to fly to space twice. Again, steak.
So, where did Svetlana get the guts? Her father was a decorated fighter pilot during the Second World War, which then threw him up the ranks to Deputy Commander-in-Chief of Soviet Air Defense. When she was sixteen-years-old, Svetlana began parachuting on the sly – though I don't know how someone does that sneakily; however, dad wasn't mad when he found out about it. In fact, he encouraged it; and by her seventeenth birthday, Svetlana had an extraordinary 450 parachute jumps under her belt. Or parachute, literally.
She later enrolled in the Moscow State Aviation Institute (MAI); and by 1971, she was a licensed flight instructor. The next step after graduation was training as a test pilot at the Fedotov Test Pilot School (aptly named), with yet another successful graduation in the books in 1976. May of 1978 put Svetlana working for the aircraft manufacturer Yakovlev as a legit test pilot.
Increasing the badass factor further, Svetlana was a member of the Soviet national team for aerobatics from 1969 to 1977. For those of you who don't know, aerobatics is the practice of flying maneuvers involving aircraft altitudes that are not used in normal flight. Think old school air show. In July 1970, Svetlana and her all-female team took home gold at the FAI World Aerobatic Championships. In 1972, her team placed a very commendable third, and in 1976 they were still in the top five.
In 1979, Svetlana competed for placement in the second group of female cosmonauts; and on June 30, 1980, she was officially admitted to the program. While barely getting into the swing of studying, she was also preparing for her first space flight; which was a quickie repair jaunt up to the space station Salyut 7 in August of 1982 – making her the second woman in space, as previously mentioned.
Svetlana is clearly a fearless, ovaries of steel kinda woman and on this day we celebrate her many achievements; most especially the recognition of first female spacewalker. Not many people can say that out of 57 Soviet spacewalkers up until the year 2010, they are the only woman with this title. Respect, Svetlana!