Svetlana Savitskaya was born in Moscow on August 8, 1948. The daughter of Yeveniy Savitsky, the Deputy Commander of the Soviet Air Defenses and twice a Hero of the Soviet Union, she lived a life of relative privilege. She began parachuting (without her parents’ permission) at age sixteen; once her father discovered her new interest he encouraged her and she completed 450 jumps by her seventeenth birthday. At eighteen she enrolled in the best Soviet aviation engineering school, the Moscow Aviation Institute (MAI) while also taking pilot lessons. By the time she was twenty, she was making solo flights.
Svetlana Savitskaya worked as a flight instructor upon graduating from MAI. She became a Merited Master of Sports of the USSR, with eighteen world records in aviation and was absolute world champion in aerobatics in 1970. In 1972, Savitskaya began testing aircraft and has worked with more than twenty types of aircraft. She has 1,500-flight hours of experience and is certified for “Test Pilot, Second Class.”
Savitskaya was chosen to be part of the second group of female cosmonauts on July 30, 1980. She underwent a complete course of training for flight missions aboard the Salyut space station and Soyuz-T spacecraft as a cosmonaut-researcher.
Svetlana Savitskaya became the fifty-third cosmonaut, and the second woman in space on August 19, 1982. She and Leonid Popov and Alexander Serebrov flew the Soyuz T-7 spacecraft to dock with the Salyut 7 space station. After conducting several experiments they returned to Earth after a mission of seven days, 21 hours and 52 minutes.
It was her second spaceflight, aboard Soyuz T-12 for which she is best known. On July 25, 1984, Svetlana Savitskaya and cosmonaut Vladimir Dzhanibekov performed an EVA (extravehicular activity) to conduct welding experiments on Salyut 7. The EVA lasted 3.58 hours and was the first time a woman walked in space. She also became the first woman to enter space twice.
Soyuz T-12 landed safely on July 29, 1984, after a flight of eleven days, 19 hours, and 14 minutes. It was Savitskaya’s last trip to space. She was scheduled to be the commander of an all-female crew to the Salyut 7 station for International Women’s Day, but the mission was canceled.
Svetlana Savitskaya became the Deputy to the Chief Designer at Energia in 1987, and a Member of the Duma, the Russian Parliament in 1989; as of 2007 she was still serving. On October 27, 1993, Savitskaya retired from the cosmonaut corps. She spent 19.71 days in space on her two flights.