Russia has sent a woman into space for the first time in 17 years as part of a joint US-Russian mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Elena Serova is the fourth female Russian cosmonaut to enter space, and is the first to fly to the ISS. She was launched into Earth orbit overnight aboard Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft.
The last female astronaut on the ISS was the American Karen Nyberg who was in orbit for six months in 2013.
Russia was the first country to send a woman into space, when Valentina Tereshkova blasted off in 1963. Tereshkova was followed by Svetlana Savitskaya who circled the Earth orbit twice, in 1982 and 1984. Elena Kondakova was the third to be put into orbit in 1994 and 1997.
A total of 57 women have flown to space so far. Four of them – US astronauts Judith Resnik, Laurel Blair Salton Clark, Kalpana Chawla and Christa McAuliffe – died during their missions when the space shuttles they were manning exploded in midair.
Source – http://www.bbc.com/news/ & http://en.ria.ru/