Svetlana Savitskaya

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Svetlana Savitskaya
Светлана Савицкая
Savitskaya in 2018
Born (1948-08-08) 8 August 1948 (age 75)
Other namesSvetlana Yevgenyevna Savitskaya
Occupation(s)Flight engineer, politician
AwardsHero of the Soviet Union (2)
Space career
Time in space
19 days 17 hours 06 minutes
Selection1980 (Female Group 2)
Total EVAs
Total EVA time
3 hours 35 minutes
MissionsSalyut 7-EP2 (Soyuz T-7 up, Soyuz T-5 down),
Salyut 7-EP4 (Soyuz T-12)
Mission insignia
Savitskaya on Soyuz T-12, and her spacewalk

Svetlana Yevgenyevna Savitskaya (Russian: Светла́на Евге́ньевна Сави́цкая; born 8 August 1948) is a Russian former aviator and Soviet cosmonaut who flew aboard Soyuz T-7 in 1982, becoming the second woman in space. On her 1984 Soyuz T-12 mission she became the first woman to fly to space twice, and the first woman to perform a spacewalk.

She set several FAI world records as a pilot.

Early life and early career[edit]

Svetlana Savitskaya was born in a privileged family. Her father, Yevgeny Savitsky, was a highly decorated fighter pilot during the Second World War, which later brought him to the position of Deputy Commander-in-Chief of Soviet Air Defense. Her mother was a Moscow Communist party leader.[1]

Without the knowledge of her parents, Savitskaya began parachuting at the age of 16. Her father realized her unknown extracurricular activity upon the discovery of a parachute knife in his daughter's school bag.[1] After his discovery, he further promoted this tendency. On her seventeenth birthday she already had 450 parachute jumps. Over the next year, she led record stratosphere jumps from 13,800 m and 14,250 m.[1] Over the course of her flying experience, Savitskaya achieved three world record jumps from the stratosphere and 15 world record jumps from jet planes.[1]

After graduating in 1966, she enrolled in the Moscow Aviation Institute (MAI), where she also took flight lessons. In 1971 she was licensed as a flight instructor. After graduating from the MAI in 1972, she trained as a test pilot at the Fedotov Test Pilot School, graduating in 1976.[1][2] In May 1978 she went to work for the aircraft manufacturer Yakovlev, as a test pilot. In her flight experience, she became the first woman to reach 2,683 km/h in a MiG-25 aircraft. An experienced and highly educated female in the Soviet Space Program, Savitskaya was reportedly an extremely serious, unbending, and steely woman.[1] While she and Valentina Tereshkova were both chosen for missions into space due to Soviet propaganda purposes, Savitskaya was much more trained and experienced in aeronautics whereas Tereshkova was chosen as a political stunt.[1]

Between 1969 and 1977 she was a member of the Soviet national team for aerobatics. At the FAI World Aerobatic Championships in July 1970 at Hullavington, she flew a Yak-18 and won the world championship together with an all-female team. At this particular Championship in the United Kingdom, a journalist for the British Press nicknamed Savitskaya “Miss Sensation”.[1] At the 1972 World Championships in Salon-de-Provence she placed third; in 1976 in Kiev with a Yak-50, fifth.[3]

Soviet space program[edit]

Savitskaya on a 1983 postage stamp

In 1979, Savitskaya participated in the selection process for the second group of female cosmonauts. On June 30, 1980, she was officially admitted to the cosmonaut group. Of the nine women selected, Savitskaya was the only test pilot.[1] The groups’ training was announced during French Air force officer and astronaut Jean-Loup Chretien’s space mission.[1] She passed her exams on February 24, 1982.

First flight: Soyuz T-7 / T-5[edit]

In December 1981, Savitskaya prepared for her first space flight, a short-term flight to the space station Salyut 7. She held the position of research cosmonaut on this mission.[4] The mission of this second visiting expedition of the Salyut 7 was to prove the Soviet superiority to America by flying another woman into space and to replace the Soyuz T-5 spacecraft the crew would use for their return with a new vehicle.[1]

The commander of this mission was Leonid Popov, with his third flight; it was flight engineer Alexander Serebrov's first flight.

The launch of Soyuz T-7 took place on August 19, 1982. This made Savitskaya the second woman in space, 19 years after Valentina Tereshkova. During the journey, Savitskaya claimed to have tied herself down to prevent from being carried into another compartment of the craft due to the loss of gravity.[1] The three cosmonauts docked with the space station the following day, where they were welcomed by Anatoly Berezovoy and Valentin Lebedev. This was the first time a space station had a mixed gender crew. Savitskaya was assigned the orbital module of Soyuz T-7 as a private area, but slept as well as the men in the space station. On August 27, 1982, Popov, Savitskaya, and Serebrov returned to Earth in Soyuz T-5. The total duration of the mission was 7 days, 21 hours, and 52 minutes.[4]

In 1995, Savitskaya gave an interview to Baltimore Sun journalist Clara Germani. She recalled encountering some sexism from her male crewmates and that upon entering Salyut 7 for the first time, Valentin Lebedev presented her with an apron and told her "to get to work". She stated that "I was quickly able to establish a working, professional relationship with them."

Second flight: Soyuz T-12[edit]

In December 1983 she was assigned to her second flight, including an extravehicular activity, or EVA, three weeks after American astronaut Kathy Sullivan's flight and EVA assignment were made public.[5] The timing of her mission would become one of her last triumphs to further the Soviet propaganda agenda in performing the first woman's space walk before the Americans. Savitskaya was chosen above other female cosmonauts due to the extensive flight experience and physical ability to perform the necessary operations in a heavy, bulky space suit for multiple hours.[1] Savitskaya participated in this mission under the title of flight engineer.[4]

Again, it was to be a short-term mission to Salyut 7, this time bringing tools to the station so that the third resident crew, the Salyut 7 EO-3, could repair a fuel line.

On July 17, 1984, Savitskaya launched aboard Soyuz T-12, together with Commander Vladimir Dzhanibekov and research cosmonaut Igor Volk. On July 25, 1984, Savitskaya became the first woman to spacewalk, conducting EVA outside the Salyut 7 space station for 3 hours and 35 minutes, during which she cut and welded metals in space along with her colleague Vladimir Dzhanibekov.[4][6] The importance of their mission was to test the Universal Hand Tool or Universalny Rabochy Instrument (URI). This tool created at the Paton Institute in Kiev, Ukraine could be used to cut, solder, weld, and braze in space. During the EVA, Savitskaya performed a total of 6 cuts of titanium and stainless steel, 2 coatings of anodized aluminum, 6 tests of tin and lead solder, and test cuts of a 0.5 mm titanium sample.[1] Of the 57 Soviet/Russian spacewalkers through 2010, she is the only woman, and as of April 2020 is still the only Soviet/Russian woman to walk in space. The return to Earth took place on July 29, 1984.

Savitskaya recalled that, during her second mission, she expressed concern about the extravehicular welding exercises, as "I did not understand the point of it. We might burn our spacesuits or the exterior of the station." but her overall excellent performance on both flights silenced critics who questioned a woman's capability to perform space missions.[7] Savitskaya's and Dzhanibekov's training and tests allowed for Dzhanibekov to direct two members of the Salyut 7 crew, Kizim and Solovyov, who had performed multiple EVA's to repair the ship, in the techniques to operate the URI in order to fully repair the fuel line.[1] The total duration of their mission lasted 11 days, 19 hours, and 14 minutes.[4]

Possible third spaceflight[edit]

Upon returning to Earth, Savitskaya was assigned as the commander of an all-female Soyuz crew to Salyut 7 in commemoration of International Women's Day. She was chosen for this duty because she was the only experienced female cosmonaut still on active duty at the time. She was set to command Yekaterina Ivanova and Yelena Dobrokvashina, two younger female cosmonauts.[1] In February 1985, however, the radio contact with Salyut 7 was lost; the space station was rescued by the Soyuz T-13 mission in the summer of 1985. When the next mission had to be stopped in November 1985, due to an illness of the commander Vladimir Vasyutin, the women's flight was finally canceled. In addition, after two unsuccessful flights in 1983, Soyuz T-8 and Soyuz T-10-1, not enough Soyuz spacecraft were available. Later it would have been possible to fly with a Soyuz-TM to the space station Mir. However, this plan was not pursued due to Savitskaya's pregnancy and birth of her son in 1986.


Savitskaya is married, with one child, a son Konstantin born in October 1986.[8] In February 1986, she graduated from the Bauman Moscow Higher Technical School. From 1983 to 1994 Savitskaya held a position of Deputy Head of NPO Energia.[9]

A committed communist, Savitskaya was elected as a people's deputy of the USSR from 1989 and a people's deputy of Russia in 1990, a position she held until 1992.[10][11] She did not welcome the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, noting that everything her parents had worked hard to build was destroyed almost overnight and she was "glad they did not live to see it".[7]

Savitskaya retired in 1993 from the Russian Air Force with the rank of Major. In 1994/95 she worked as an assistant professor in Economics and Investment at the Moscow State Aviation Institute. In 1996, she was elected a deputy of the State Duma representing the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, and has been re-elected four times since then. She presently serves as Deputy Chair of the Committee on Defence, and is also a member of the Coordination council presidium of the National Patriotic Union.[11]

FAI World Records[12][edit]

Date Class Discipline Plane Result
June 6, 1974 turbojet Climb to 6000 m MiG-21 1:20.4 min
June 6, 1974 turbojet Climb to 9000 m MiG-21 1:46.7 min
June 7, 1974 turbojet Climb to 3000 m MiG-21 0:59.1 min
June 7, 1974 turbojet Climb to 12000 m MiG-21 2:35.1 min
November 15, 1974 rocket plane Climb to 3000 m MiG-21 0:41.2 min
November 15, 1974 rocket plane Climb to 9000 m MiG-21 1:21 min
November 15, 1974 rocket plane Climb to 12000 m MiG-21 1:59.3 min
June 2, 1975 turbojet Speed over 15/25 km MiG-25 2683.45 km/h
August 31, 1977 turbojet Altitude in horizontal flight MiG-25 21,209.9 m
October 21, 1977 turbojet Speed over circuit of 500 km MiG-25 2466.31 km/h
April 12, 1978 turbojet Speed over circuit of 1000 km MiG-25 2333 km/h
January 17, 1979 internal combustion plane Climb to 3000 m Yak-50 4:21.4 min
April 23, 1981 turbojet, take-off weight 16–20 tons Payload at 2000 m altitude Yak-40K 5012 kg
April 24, 1981 turbojet, take-off weight 12–16 tons Payload at 2000 m altitude Yak-40K 4084 kg

Honours and awards[edit]

Savitskaya was one of five cosmonauts selected to raise the Russian flag at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics opening ceremony.[14]

The asteroid 4118 Sveta is named after her.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Evans, Ben (2012). Tragedy and Triumph in Orbit: The Eighties and Early Nineties. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 614. doi:10.1007/978-1-4614-3430-6. ISBN 9781461434306.
  2. ^ Знаменская, Наталья, ed. (2002). ШЛИ со временем [ShLI in Time] (in Russian) (2 ed.). Жуковский: ООО "Редакция газеты "Жуковские вести". p. 400.
  3. ^ Umberto Cavallaro - Women Spacefarers: Sixty Different Paths to Space, Springer, 2017. ISBN 3319340476
  4. ^ a b c d e "Biographies of USSR / Russian Cosmonauts". Space Facts. 9 August 2012. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
  5. ^ "A Cog in a Political Machine: The Career of Svetlana Savitskaya". AmericaSpace. 2012-02-10. Retrieved 2018-03-21.
  6. ^ "Space welding anniversary!". Orbiter-Forum. Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd. 16 July 2009. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
  7. ^ a b "Space heroine as hard-line hopeful Russian election: Svetlana Savitskaya, the first woman to walk in space, is a top Communist candidate in the once all-powerful party's comeback bid in the Duma".
  8. ^ "Nothing But The Facts About: Svetlana Savitskaya". Brighthub. 25 December 2008. Retrieved April 12, 2014.
  9. ^ "S.P. Korolev RSC Energia - News". (in Russian). Archived from the original on 2019-04-01. Retrieved 2018-03-21.
  10. ^ "Pilot-cosmonaut of the USSR, Svetlana Savitskaya, turns 65". Russian Aviation. 9 August 2013. Archived from the original on 7 October 2013. Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  11. ^ a b "Duma Deputies Alphabetical Listing". Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  12. ^ "Records | World Air Sports Federation". Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. Retrieved 2018-03-21.
  13. ^ "Почетные граждане города" [Honorary citizens of the city]. (in Russian). Baikonur City Administration. Retrieved 2019-02-21.
  14. ^ "The XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi in 2014 has opened with a grand show". 8 February 2014. Archived from the original on 6 July 2014. Retrieved 11 February 2014.
  15. ^ Schmadel, Lutz D. (2003). Dictionary of Minor Planet Names, Volume 1. New York: Springer. p. 352. ISBN 3-540-00238-3.

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