Jesco von Puttkamer

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Jesco von Puttkamer
Jesco von Puttkamer 2009 at German television ZDF
Born Jesco Freiherr von Puttkamer
(1933-09-22)September 22, 1933
Leipzig; Germany
Died December 27, 2012(2012-12-27) (aged 79)
Occupation Aerospace engineer
Employer NASA

Jesco Hans Heinrich Max Freiherr von Puttkamer (September 22, 1933 – December 27, 2012) was a German-American aerospace engineer and senior NASA manager from Leipzig.

He belonged to a widely extended noble family, von Puttkamer. According to a longstanding family tradition, each firstborn Puttkamer receives the first name of "Jesco".


After World War II, during which his family lived in Switzerland, von Puttkamer finished high school in Konstanz and studied mechanical engineering at the Technische Hochschule (RWTH Aachen University) in Aachen, graduating with a university degree.

In 1962 von Puttkamer left Germany for the United States, where he joined Wernher von Braun's rocket team at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, as an engineer during the Apollo program.[1] His boss at Marshall Space Flight Center was Ernst Geissler.[2] He received United States citizenship in 1967.

At NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. since 1974, he first served as a NASA program manager in charge of long-range planning of deep space manned activities (flights beyond Earth orbit) and he was an ardent advocate of manned space exploration and SETI.[3] While in NASA, he also worked with Gene Roddenberry as technical advisor to Paramount Pictures for Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), contributing, among other things, the hypothetical theory behind the faster-than-light space warp drive and the promotional slogan "Space — The Human Adventure Is Just Beginning".[citation needed]

From 1985 to 2000 he also lectured at the FH Aachen University at Aachen, Germany as an Honorary Professor. In 1995, von Puttkamer was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Philosophy by the Saarland University, Germany for his pioneering contributions to the understanding of space flight as a major cultural undertaking, challenge, and obligation of nations concerned about their future advancement and position in science, technology, industry, economy, education, and the humanities.

From 2009 until his death, Puttkamer provided management leadership at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., on the programs of the International Space Station (ISS), for which he held special responsibilities as a Russia expert for the Russian segment and activities and daily on-orbit operation/increments, the Space Shuttle and, since 2004, President George W. Bush's Vision for Space Exploration, was stationed in the HQ Space Operations Mission Directorate (SOMD).

Jesco von Puttkamer died of a sudden flu-like illness on December 27, 2012.[3]

Von Puttkamer has said that among his most treasured achievements at NASA were his contributions to the Apollo program Lunar Landing in 1969, which fulfilled President John F. Kennedy's mandate of 1961; helping to rescue America's experimental space station Skylab after its near-disastrous launch into orbit on May 14, 1973, making it habitable and eminently successful for three sets of U.S. astronauts later that year; and also "rescuing" the backup Skylab version from being discarded so it could be publicly displayed in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., instead of being sold for scrap.

Awards and honors[edit]

Von Puttkamer has been honored with numerous high NASA awards, among them in 2004 with NASA's prestigious Exceptional Service Medal, the highest civilian order for outstanding services by a U.S. government agency. It was followed in 2007 by a distinguished NASA Honor Award for successful initiatives of advancing American-Russian cooperation in Spaceflight. In December 2008, Von Puttkamer was honored by the German-American Heritage Foundation of the USA (GAHF) with the “Distinguished German-American of the Year” award,[4] accompanied by personal congratulatory letters from U.S. President George W. Bush, then-NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, and the governors of the states of Pennsylvania and Virginia.[3]

Books and publications[edit]

He is the author of more than a dozen books on space flight, and, during his post-World War II student years in Germany and many well-known science fiction novels. His novelette "The Sleeping God" was published in the English language anthology Star Trek: The New Voyages 2, edited by Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath, ISBN 0-553-11392-5. His diary/book on the first lunar landing by Apollo 11 was published in 1982 in Beijing in a Chinese translation. A revised edition of this book was published for the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission in July 2009.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Harris, Kathleen (11 July 2009). "World prepares for 40th anniversary of Apollo 11". Canadian Online Explorer. Retrieved 25 December 2010. 
  2. ^ Jesco von Puttkamer: Der zweite Tag der neuen Welt – Die Raumfahrt auf dem Weg ins 3. Jahrtausend, Umschau Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, 1985. ISBN 3-524-69054-8. S. 13.
  3. ^ a b c d Cowing, Keith (27 December 2012). "NASA's Jesco von Puttkamer Has Died". Retrieved 27 December 2012. 
  4. ^ "Dr. Jesco von Puttkamer, 2008 Distinguished German-American of the Year" (Adobe Flash). 2008. Retrieved 28 December 2012. 

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