Obituary for Sigmund Jähn: "Simply a cool guy."

The picture shows Sigmund Jähn (l.) with the GFZ scientist Yuri Shprits (r. ) on the "Red Couch" of the photo artist Horst Wackerbarth. The column bears the two busts of Jähn on the right and his Russian colleague Waleri Bykowski on the left. A representation of the sun was projected onto the column. The picture was taken in 2017 (photo: Horst Wackerbarth).

He was the first German in space, he was one of the pioneers of remote sensing from space, and he was a friend of GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences: Sigmund Jähn passed away on Saturday, 21 September, in Strausberg. He was 82 years old. Most recently, he worked with GFZ on an interview project together with the photo artist Horst Wackerbarth. Before that, he provided valuable advice to GFZ on an exhibition covering the history of research on the Telegrafenberg on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of the Institute of Geodesy. Sigmund Jähn completed his doctoral thesis at the predecessor institute of GFZ, the Zentralinstitut für Physik der Erde (ZIPE).

One of the fundamentals of his dissertation were the multi-spectral camera images taken by Jähn on board the Soviet Space Station Saljut 6. The 'MKF 6' from ZEISS-Jena had been specially developed for remote sensing and was able to take photos in six different spectral ranges of light.

Harald Schuh, Director of the Department of Geodesy at GFZ, recalls the preparations for the anniversary exhibition: "Sigmund Jähn was there to support us and the curator at all times and we were very pleased that he came to Potsdam for the opening of the 'Focus Earth' exhibition.” At the end of the exhibition Sigmund Jähn donated his doctoral hat which had been made at ZIPE to GFZ on permanent loan. The former pilot's helmet, decorated as a doctoral cap, holds a place of honor in the foyer of the GFZ main building. Schuh characterizes Jähn: "Today you would say he was simply a cool guy."

"Sigmund Jähn has done a lot for the internationalisation of space travel and research," says Reinhard Hüttl, Chairman of the GFZ Executive Board. He had already advocated cooperation between astronauts and cosmonauts in GDR times and continued this commitment after the fall of communism. Reinhard Hüttl "It was his humor and his down-to-earth approach that set him apart".

Sigmund Jähn was born on 13 February 1937 in Vogtland. He made a career in the GDR Air Force and studied in Moscow. On August 26, 1978, Jähn and his Russian colleague, Waleri Bykowski, took off for the Saljut 6 Space Station, where he spent almost eight days. Since the hard landing of the return capsule, Jähn suffered from spinal damage. In 1983, Jähn received his doctorate from the Central Institute of Earth Physics, which belonged to the Academy of Sciences of the GDR. After reunification, Jähn worked as a consultant for the European Space Agency ESA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR). His last place of residence was Strausberg near Berlin. Sigmund Jähn was married and is survived by his two daughters.

More information:

Media contact:
Josef Zens
Head of Public and Media Relations
Helmholtz Centre Potsdam
GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences
Telegrafenberg 14473 Potsdam
Tel.: +49 331 288-1040
Twitter: @GFZ_Potsdam



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