The first time it was simply a woman, without qualification by nationality. In order to retain the distinction of “a first” all subsequent achievements would have to be on the basis of nationality or something equally qualifying. Hence, “first American”, “first Chinese”, “first Japanese”, “first German”, and so on.
Here, it is space; and the milestone is almost 20 years to the date: The first time a woman went into space was June 16, 1963 – a Russian named Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova. Almost 20 years later to the day, on June 18, 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. 29 years later, Liu Yang, on June 16, 2012 became the first Chinese woman in space.
One needs only look back over these almost 50 years to appreciate the transformational process. Today, space travel seems almost routine. Indeed, it is fast moving into private commercial enterprise. Fifty years ago, it was still in the dream stage.
That “first woman”, the pioneer, had a passion for sky-diving. It is that desire we all have, to do something – gardening, photography, hiking, cooking, reading, writing, and so forth. In her passion for sky-diving, Valentina Tereshkova could not have foreseen or even imagined what space travel is today.
This is precisely what transformation is all about. If only we could grasp the larger picture that emerges from our small, and sometimes routine, daily experiences. Look beyond this lifetime, beyond the tombstone.
Does it matter? That is the ultimate meaning of this life.