Svetlana Savitskaya was the second woman in space. The first was of course Valentina Tereshkova in June 1963; it was not for another twenty years that another woman went up. Savitskaya was one of three on the Soyuz T7 mission, launched on 19 August 1982, which was in space for eight days.

She was also on the twelve-day mission of Soyuz T12, launched 17th July 1984, making her the first woman to be in space twice, and she also did the first female spacewalk then. (In October that year Sally Ride became the second woman to be in space twice.)

Savitskaya was born in Moscow on 8th August 1948, her father being an air ace, Deputy Commander of the Soviet Air Defences, and a Hero of the Soviet Union. She secretly decided to become a pilot; when her father found out he supported her choice. I quote the following from the website

With her father's support she was able to try for a record stratospheric sky dive at the age of 17. She jumped from 14,252 m and fell for 14 km before opening her parachute at 500 m.

By her 17th birthday in 1965 she had completed 450 parachute jumps. At age 18 she began pilot training and enrolled in the premier Soviet aviation engineering school, the Moscow Aviation Institute (MAI). By age 20 she soloed in a YaK-18 trainer.

The British Press called her 'Miss Sensation' in 1970 when she became World Champion as a member of the Soviet National Aerobatics Team at the world aerobatics competition at Hullavington. By 1972 she graduated from MAI and became a flying trainer at DOSAAF (Central Technical Flying School of the USSR Voluntary Society for the Promotion of the Army, Air Force, and Navy). However she pushed to be allowed into test-pilot school. After acceptance, she went on to establish many world records in turbo-prop and supersonic aircraft, including the record of 2683 km/hr female record in a MiG-21 aircraft. She qualified as a pilot on 20 types of aircraft.

She has since been a member of the Russian parliament (1989) and an engineer with with the Energia company. "Her favourite composers are Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, and her favourite poet is Mikhail Lermontov." -- a nice civilised Russian touch.

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