The story of our world history as we know it has always hinged itself on political bias. It has seen men and women pitched against each other, in competition to be the first-to, like during the Cold War where America and Russia were in an arms race to be the world's superpower. This has meant that so many wonderful achievements and record breaking events have slipped through media cracks, passed by with little achnowledgement simply because it wasnt a world first.
Second female cosmonaut to space Svetlana Evguenievna Savitskaya achieved so much in her career as a test pilot and engineer before her space endeavors. To us, Savitskaya did just as much to break down barriers for women as her predecessor Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova who was the first woman in space, if not more. At the age of 16, Svetlana Savitskaya applied to the Moscow Aviation Institute to become a pilot, but was denied due to her age. In the space of 2 years until she would legally be allowed to enter, she became a parachutist, performing over 450 jumps and breaking the world record dive at 14,252 meters at the age of 17.
Whilst at the institute, Savitskaya was given the nickname of “Miss Sensation” by the British press after she and her team became the world champions in aerobatics. Throughout her career as a pilot, Svetlana earned 23 world records for aircraft speed, 3 records for parachuting, and qualified to fly 20 types of aircraft. She strived to earn respect in the male dominated world she existed in. Some of her records still stand to this day. After her training, Svetlana went on to become a flight instructor, a test pilot, and a sports pilot, whilst completing a Master’s degree in Flight Engineering.
In the late 70s, the Soviet Union was recruiting female cosmonauts and Svetlana qualified with flying colours. Her first space mission on the Soyuz T-7, launched on 19 August 1982 with crewmates Leonid Popov and Aleksandr Serebrov, becoming the second woman in space. At the spacestation, she was handed an apron from her male crewmates and jokingly told to get to work in the kitchen. But she was in fact treated with much respect by her male crew members,
“They gallantly presented me with flowers they had grown in orbit and those plain flowers in a transparent box were the dearest present to me. We hugged each other, kissed each other, in a word, our meeting was the usual meeting of friends who had not met for a long time.” - Svetlana.
On July 25, 1984, cosmonauts Svetlana Savitskaya and Vladimir Dzhanibekov tested one of the most important repair methods ever, welding and brazing metal samples in the vacuum of space. The experiment worked, the system was proven and Savitskaya, in the process, became the first woman to walk in space. She spent 3 hours 35 minutes outside the space station, becoming the first person to weld in space, alongside her crewmate Vladimir Dzhanibekov. It was her final mission to space, as a later mission to command the first all-female crew was cancelled due to 'problems with the ageing Salyut 7 station' or perhaps political reasons in fact.