Station’s First Female Cosmonaut Preparing For September Launch

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida — Russia is preparing to launch its first woman to the international space station.

Elena Serova, 38, is slated to serve as a flight engineer, along with NASA astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Samokutyaev. The trio is due to launch aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft on Sept. 25 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Serova will become only the fourth Russian woman to fly in space and the first since cosmonaut Elena Kondakova joined a 1997 U.S. space shuttle crew to visit the now-defunct Mir space station.

“I don’t think I’m doing anything extraordinary,” Serova said through a translator in a NASA interview.

“It is undoubtedly very important that we have all kinds of people working on the international space station — people from different countries, people from different professions, because the international space station is the beginning of something tremendous, something outstanding especially in light of further exploration, when people will be exploring other planets and other worlds.”

The former Soviet Union launched the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova, aboard a Vostok rocket on June 16, 1963. Almost 20 years later, the Soviets flew Svetlana Savitskaya to their Salyut 7 space station. Savitskaya returned for a second mission in 1984, during which she became the first woman to make a spacewalk.

By then, NASA had launched the first American woman in space, Sally Ride, who was a crew member on the June 1983 STS-7 shuttle mission.