Moscow launches PR blitz for its spacewoman
Moscow — With a script resembling nothing so much as an introduction for bachelorette No. 1 on ''The Dating Game,'' Moscow is celebrating the launch of the world's second spacewoman.
A report from a Soviet source, meanwhile, suggests there is far more than public relations to the official news media focus on the ''courage'' of cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya. By this account, her husband, like her a professional test pilot, was involved in a near-fatal crash shortly before Mrs. Savitskaya's liftoff Aug. 19.
There has been, however, public relations in abundance.
Western diplomats here suspect one explanation for the timing of Savitskaya's mission, coming some 19 years after Moscow orbited the first spacewoman, is the announced plans of the United States to include a female scientist on a coming space shuttle flight.
Although Savitskaya is a junior member of the three-cosmonaut team that blasted off from Soviet Central Asia and has docked with an orbiting space station, it is she who has felt the main glare of the official media spotlight.
For example, the following item ran high up on a Moscow radio news summary Aug. 24: ''The five Soviet cosmonauts, Svetlana Savitskaya among them,'' performed scientific experiments aboard the Salyut space station. . . .
Earthbound feminists might find a little of the coverage hard to take: remarks about Savitskaya's ''hazel, somewhat thoughtful eyes,'' for instance; or the contention of a fellow crew member that ''the presence of a woman exerts an ennobling effect on the microclimate of a small group. . . .''
''Her female caution will be useful,'' another cosmonaut said.
Moscow Radio crowed that, during scientific experiments aboard the space station, Savitskaya had exhibited ''punctuality to a degree many men lack. . . .''
The spacewoman described by the news agency Tass as a mix of ''courage, . . . charm, and femininity'' is of strikingly different background than the first female cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova.
The first spacewoman's airborne credentials consisted of some experience as an amateur parachutist. Savitskaya also enjoyed parachute jumping as a teen-ager. Later, she became an accomplished flyer, winning a world aerobatic title in Britain and later test-piloting some 20 different aircraft.
Some Western analysts here suggest that the choice of a cosmonaut like Savitskaya lends credence to reports from a Soviet journalist who defected to the West that Tereshkova had serious physical problems on her 1963 solo orbital mission - a charge Soviet officials, and Tereshkova, deny.
The nearly 20-year gap between the launches of the first and second female cosmonauts is attributed by a senior Soviet space program official to a need to establish a more comfortable orbital environment in the interim.
''You can split up (on present Soviet spacecraft,)'' he said, ''have your own place to sleep, a place to shower, and so on.''
Savitskaya and crewmates Leonid Popov and Alexander Serebrov are scheduled to stay aboard the Salyut space station for a week, leaving behind the two cosmonauts who have been aboard it for the past three months.