CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Chalk one more up on the space scoreboard for those imaginative Russians, who this time have really brought on the "dog days" for the American scientific male.
The invasion of space by the lipstick-and-powder set in the plumpish form of one Valentina Tereshkova, Soviet "cosmonette" will hardly ease things on the home front for the average U.S. space scientist.
Particularly if the wife is inclined to be a bit pushy about the role of womanhood in the scheme of things, earthly and heavenly.
And it didn't help that the Soviets, from an ample list of 365 days, had to choose Father's Day for this particular feat. On a day when the American male was supposed to reign supreme, a Russian female was getting all the attention.
"I still think we have good space program," said one Cape Canaveral missile worker, "But you have to give them credit for imagination. They have it all over us there."
The one regret seemed to be that Miss Tereshkova's orbital comrade Lt. Col. Valery F. Bykovsky, was married, thus eliminating the possibility of a romantic rendezvous in space. One writer commented that if that ever happened:
"...Bykovsky may discover when he comes back to earth that Nikita Khrushchev will be the only person waiting to greet him who will embrace him. Mrs. Bykovsky may have a few words to say, but I don't think even the Russians would print her words or thoughts."
The subject of women in space generally is treated rather lightly in U.S. scientific circles. One space official, when asked about the possibility of U.S. "astronettes" replied, "Well, there is an allowance of 125 pounds for recreation equipment aboard the (moonbound) Apollo spacecraft ..."
By and large, this giant space port simply smiled, and even seemed a bit amused, at the idea of a woman in space. There were several budding jokes on the subject, particularly regarding average woman's reputed ability to drive any machine properly.
But there were no smiles about the possible implications of the space flights of Bykovsky and Miss Tereshkova.
The one possibility that seemed most worrisome was the likelihood that, sometime during the flight, the cosmonaut and cosmonette would maneuver their Vostok spaceships together and link them up.
Such an accomplishment would put the United States a full three years behind the Soviet Union, and would seriously jeopardize the success of this nation's $35 billion bid to land the first men on the moon.
It also may indicate Russia is shooting at a 1965 target date for landing its cosmonauts on the moon. America's first manned lunar landing is set for 1968 at the earliest.
U.S. space scientist Wernher von Braun contends that the Soviet Union probably is still using rockets of about 800,000 pounds of thrust in its major space efforts. This is only one half the size of the Saturn I rocket America is building and not nearly powerful enough to land the five-ton Vostok space ship on the moon.
However, scientists conceded, a linking up of the Tereshkova and Bykovsky vehicles in orbit would indicate the Soviets are beginning to master the technique of "rendezvous and docking" a method that can be used for assembling large space ships in orbit.
America's first attempt to connect two spacecraft in orbit -- a manned Gemini capsule with an unmanned Agena upper stage -- is not scheduled until 1965. In fact, unless some drastic changes are made, the United States will not attempt another astronaut flight until October, 1964.
And the two astronauts who will ride on that flight will both be male.