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Excursions - VIP Tours

Fire, roar, aborted takeoff - and a fabulous sunrise
31.08.2022, Cocoa Beach, Ralf Heckel

photos Cosmas blog  Rovernauts Launchreports  Raumfahrt Concret  Werner-Heisenberg-School  

slsmorningFinally, the queue of cars is coming to an end. It is raining. The driver waves us onto the airstrip of the Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville. This is a bit north of Cape Canaveral on the mainland. Long lines of cars hobble across the grassy field past the numerous ushers until the car is parked. Our car is a brand new V6 cylinder Ford 15-passenger bus, which you can drive here with a regular car license. It is nevertheless a brute and sluggish like the W50, on which I was fortunately still allowed to learn to drive. It all has something of the ILA in the early years. So off we go to the buses. It is dark, humid and warm with 28 degrees and the grass of the airfield is damp and soft. 2 participants did not make it through the pre-registration. They had no badge and their hearts were up to their necks. Now there was no turning back. But no problem. The controllers still had a "last minute stand" with badges. Relief, saved!

The passengers in the buses are counted and then the column starts to move, while another column of empty buses already arrives again with escort. One can only see something through the front window. All the other windows are fogged up from the air conditioning inside, and from the warm, humid air outside. "Dew point undershoot" is what they call it, and you can't wipe it away. So, we continue through the night. Only dimly do we pass the Visitor Complex, the KSC guardhouse and the large assembly hall (VAB), crushed into water droplets.

boardingThen the bus convoy turns onto the Saturn V Center and we already have to get off. It had stopped raining. On the horizon, Artemis towers brightly illuminated. It is now the size of a fist and only 3 km away in the black of the night. It is a majestic sight! A calming feeling spreads. "We are Going" becomes "We are here!". All tension and fatigue fall away. We enter the grandstand and take our seats. There are still more than 4 hours until the start. The balmy summer air is very pleasant and very clean. The arriving visitors behave quietly. Now and then you see someone sleeping on one of the aluminum benches. Our little Jesco is already one of them.

Helicopters rattle, the governor of Florida Ron DeSantis arrives. VIPs are escorted. A large TV screen occasionally switches on to right of us, only to black out again. Living this moment, with the fueled largest rocket in the world in front of you is, awesome. Rumbling chirps. Suddenly murmurs and uneasiness burst into the silence.

"There is a Fire"! Everyone cranks their necks, pulls out their cameras, shouting. I had just finished installing my tripod with a large telephoto lens and looked through it. Indeed - a huge dark red flame is flickering right out of the side of the launch tower. It's right where the hydrogen and oxygen tanks are. Oh sh.... ! The rocket is filled to the brim with fuel. That's will lead to a bigger explosion than Challenger 1986! And that was already huge!

fireI quickly point all cameras at it and hold the tripod so that it doesn't get knocked over from the soon approaching shock wave. I press myself into the bench, so as not to be knocked over myself, just as the commentator gives the all-clear. At the back of the rocket, a vaporizing hydrogen is being burned off in a controlled manner. There is a video of this from the side. It just looks like .... from our position. He also explains that hydrogen actually burns colorlessly, but the flame here appears reddish because of the gases from the atmosphere. I take a breath of relief! Phew...

The shock slowly subsides, the digital clock with the countdown counts down, and it quiets down again as another murmur goes round: "Ahhh......, Awesome, Amazing". The first rays of sunlight illuminate the various layers of clouds on the horizon in dark red, while above us it is starry and black. This spectacle changes every minute now. Orange hues are added and the clouds keep forming new black sculptures. In the center stands, blazing and steaming the new moon rocket - a breathtaking sight. It all looks like a work of art and yet it is a natural spectacle.

The sun comes out and immediately it gets hot on my forehead. Now there will be a dry period where you just have to grit your teeth. It does not help anything; everyone has to go through it now! It becomes dazzlingly bright and hot. Suddenly, the rocket turns black and is standing there, like a silhouette in the backlight, with the fireball of our solar system to the right of it. This rocket could easily reach it, too. It is a great feeling to be allowed to stand at the side pillar of such an interplanetary bridge.

groupThe pupils and students are busy with photos and interviews. Little Jesco also wants to film the event and I give him a Go-Pro that he should point high into the sky, where the rocket is supposed to fly. He stands there, focused and looking intently at the opposite side, for half an hour. By then, even he had noticed that the countdown had stopped at 40 minutes and wonders why.

Sure enough, there's an unscheduled stop. The commentator explains that one of the engines isn’t cooling enough and that this "bleeding" is just being extrapolated by scientists with data. His voice pitch is unchanged as if this is a planned routine, so no one is really taking it seriously here either. But the countdown stops. Jesco loses patience with his camera and runs away to get a higher vantage point, from which he can see the clock better.

nixI make another short video, just as one sentence comes out of the loudspeakers: "Start aborted". Immediately, the previously amused crowd starts to move. Everything stands up and flocks to the buses. Yes, we are familiar with that. And that should happen quickly, nobody knows what technical problems there are and before everything blows up, you want to have the people in the waiting buses. But we also know the now questioning faces of the students. "What's going on?" The disappointed Jesco, whose dream will not come true today after all, and also a group of younger students from Miami from the AIAA could not believe it. Only the old-timers with hats, canes and their camera equipment were the first to scramble from the high stands onto the buses.

The mood on the bus was low, with only Kenneth, a 66-year-old teacher from Washington, continuing to take pictures on the bus and catching the only sunny photos of the rocket. The day had barely begun, but for us it was coming to an end. We checked into the new hotel and the 30 hours without sleep were made up for.

After waking up it said: Start on Friday. I didn't even know what day it was, with 2 nights awake in just one week and a 6-hour time difference.

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Excursions - VIP Tours

photos Cosmas blog  Rovernauts Launchreports  Raumfahrt Concret  Werner-Heisenberg-School  

lc3925.08.2022, over the Atlantic with British Airways BA2039

It's still about 3 hours to Orlando. I'm sitting on the plane again, after a break of 2.5 years. The Pandemic and the war have changed the world and our lives as well. After a 6 hour flight over London, flying just started feeling familiar again, as if the time since the pandemic began hadn't existed. Then I opened this pad and those last experiences I typed in here appear on the screen. There's a ticket to India with a stopover in Kiev. Now that airport is in ruins. My last travel report also looks at me warningly, Moscow February 2020.

Like many, I had been deluded into believing that positive influence could be brought to Russia, something like a slow fall of the Berlin Wall. Since the outbreak of the war, I too had to realize that I was wrong. All the signs were there, but I didn't want to believe them.

Now those 20 years of Space Education with Russia are history. Despots and their privileged henchmen are waging a war against their own and neighboring people and are taking our future into for this purpose. My huge list of friends in Russia has also thinned out. Former friends and even students I have grown fond of have allowed themselves to be blinded and in an attempt to explain themselves they themselves have become verbal and tangible perpetrators.

Growing up in what was still the GDR, the memory of it was still there, and after 30 years since the fall of the Wall, I am aware that the old Russia has become taboo for me. The whole country has a long and sacrificial process of coming to terms with the past ahead of it, and I see little hope for a quick solution. Too much aggression, frustration and lies have built up over the last 20 years for that, and the people in power do not count on morality at all. Only the Russian people can change this process for the better and I fear that this will take a very long time.

So, I am grateful for 20 years and countless trips to Russia, great experiences, a great time with our students and friends from space. Above all, they were one thing: unique. And I am gladly willing to resume these relations, to build a more peaceful Russia. But in order to do so, the Russian people must first do their homework, lose their fear of the despots, stand up and completely clean up the time of Stalin and Putin. There is a lot of work to be done.

For a long time, I had admired the stability and reliability of Russian space travel. But now it is apparent that it has become an empty shell, too stiff and too intertwined with the military. Moreover, no real new innovation has been added since Korolyov.

In contrast, NASA's new lunar program has picked up speed. In my estimation, it is precisely NASA's multifaceted orientation, including the promotion of private startups as service providers, that has given it its immense superiority over the Russian systems, which are now hopelessly outdated.

Professor von Puttkamer's words thus resonate loudly when he told me in 2006: "We must put spaceflight on many legs and leave the day-to-day business to private service providers. That's the only way we as NASA can do what we should be doing, exploring space."

So, for 20 years now, Yvonne and I have been working towards just that return to the Moon, getting hundreds of students excited about it, many of whom have now embarked on such a career. After 2 years of pandemic, we are still around and that is something to be proud of.


So now I'm back on the plane heading for the USA. The first new moon rocket with the name Artemis 1 is to start. Again, there are several planes from many countries with the same one goal and many young people under our leadership. We will be meeting in the next few days, witnessing history firsthand and also writing it.

I don't quite know today what will be in store for us. But one thing is clear to me, we will make more of it than we had imagined in advance. So, I sit in the Boeing 777 and look out of the window to the left at the Atlantic. As if this was a greeting, the nose of Cape Canaveral, which is particularly familiar to me, slides into the picture. The two launch pads 39 A and B are in front of me, and on pad B, which is closer to me, the most powerful rocket in the world is already stretching up into the sky, tiny but visible.

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Events - Excursions

6 young engineers from Leipzig are at the forefront as NASA VIPs for the launch of Artemis 1

photos Cosmas blog  Rovernauts Launchreports  Raumfahrt Concret  Werner-Heisenberg-School  


It is a promise made by Prof. Dr. von Puttkamer from Leipzig that has been kept 10 years after his death. When the Space Education Institute was first founded in Leipzig in 2005, he said: "If you stay involved with it, space will be open to you, and you will be right at the very front during the launch back to the moon". This was the same year that the first Space Shuttle had been launched again after the Columbia disaster. The professor was working on future long-term programs along with private participation, which are now coming to fruition. The couple, Yvonne and Ralf Heckel from Leipzig, were selected by him and invited to the first "Return to Flight" launch of the "Discovery" with the words: "Don't leave me hanging now. You are sitting next to the astronauts' families in the first row". But it took 2 flights to Florida and several launch attempts before the spacecraft finally took off.

Now 17 years have passed and, since then, a school for young engineers with an environment-friendly campus with the name "Puttkamer" has been established in Leipzig,  where Yvonne and Ralf have guided international pupils and students through the world of space travel on countless occasions. Here, 44 NASA rovers have been built by young engineers and three world championship titles were won at competitions. Leipzig has become a prestigious location for young international spaceflight talents. No one is closer: numerous pilots, space engineers and aspiring astronauts have begun their careers here. Additionally, the proportion of girls is even higher than that of boys.


Currently, the next giant moon rocket, named "Artemis 1", is standing on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, its height even surpassing that of Leipzig's 33-story business tower. The invitation for the team from Leipzig came directly from NASA headquarters and Professor von Puttkamer's work colleagues. Naturally, Yvonne and Ralf have been invited, as well as the current NASA rover of the 15-year-old experienced pilot, Cosma. Cosma is a member of the Youth Council of the US General Consulate in Leipzig. Her team, consisting of 8 to 17-year-old young inventors, represents not only Germany and the Free State of Saxony, but also the Jesco von Puttkamer School, Leipzig's Humbold Gymnasium, the Werner Heisenberg School, the Quartiersschule Ihmelsstraße and the 74th Primary School of Leipzig.

In addition, Yvonne and Ralf are leading 20 other international pupils and students to the VIP area at Banana Creek.They all come from the fellow educational institutions TEC Monterrey Campus Cuernavaca, UNAQ, Mc Kinley high school and TecMantra (USA, Mexico, India). Among them is aspiring astronaut Jasleen Kaur and Tesla-engeneer Valeria Vazquez Zafra. Banana Creek is a lagoon merely 3 kilometers away from the launch site and it is exclusive for NASA's closest advisors and family members.

Artemis 1 consists of the new heavy-lift rocket SLS (a symbiosis of the Apollo moon rocket Saturn V and Space Shuttle) and the Orion space capsule, large enough for a crew of 6 people. First, there will be an unmanned test flight around the moon and a re-entering of the Earth's atmosphere at 32 times the speed of sound. Earthquake sensors around the world will be able to register the launch and the fly-over. 

Three launch windows are planned for the 29.8., 2.9. and 5.9.2022. This rocket will be the most complicated machine to ever lift off from the ground. Hence, it is not yet clear whether the computer will interrupt the countdown. The first launch of the Space Shuttle took 2 years. Artemis 1 also has 5 different time windows between September and December 2022.

All participants will be writing a blog which will be updated daily on and their Facebook fan page. On 25 August, the plane will take off with these "transatlantic ambassadors of the future".






Yvonne Heckel (47) Managing Director International Space Education Institute
Ralf Heckel (53) Head of the International Space Education Institute
Arthur Sommer (17) Copilot Rovernauts, Basketball player, Heisenberg High School
Cosma (15) Pilot Rovernauts, CAD designer, Humbold Gymnasium
Tara (13) Social Media, soccer player Ihmelstraße secondary school
Jesco (8) Tinkerer, CAD designer, trike rider, 74th elementary school

International NASA-VIP-guests, hosted by International Space Education Institute for Artemis 1 launch-viewing & tour:

Kenneth Lesley, McKinley Highschool Washington DC, USA
David Garcia Suarez, Tec Monterrey, Campus Cuernavaca, Mexico
Daniela Espinosa Biosca, Tec Monterrey, Campus Cuernavaca, Cuba
Ian Doring Romo, Tec Monterrey, Campus Cuernavaca, Mexico
Jorge Emiliano Turner Escalante, Tec Monterrey, Campus Cuernavaca, Mexico
Sebastián Cruz Espinosa de los Monteros, Tec Monterrey, Campus Cuernavaca, Mexico
Jorge Abraham Vega Méndez, Tec Monterrey, Campus Cuernavaca, Mexico
Valeria Vazquez Zafra, Tesla, California
Alina Sandra Santander Vinokurova, Team Bolivia
Navdeep Singh Singh, TecMantra Global, India
Navpreet Kaur Kaur, TecMantra Global, India
Sarvik Singh Josan, TecMantra Global, India
Ashmeet Singh Singh, TecMantra Global, India
Hari Sundar Bhujel, STEM-Society Nepal

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Huntsville - Space celebrations

Tribute to German-American NASA scientist in Huntsville, AL

Memorial plaque unveiled at home - historical hand drawings found after 50 years

Prof. Dr. Jesco von Puttkamer (1933 Leipzig, 2012 Alexandria VA) resided in Huntsville, Alabama from 1962-1974. A telegram from the director of the Marshall Spaceflight Center, Dr. Wernher von Braun, brought him as a fresh engineer to the Dixieland between cotton fields, the Tennessee River and the new Apollo moon program. At that time, the airfield was still near Memorial Pkwy SW and the warm air hit him "like a wet sack" (from his essay: "Watercress & Rockets").


Puttkamer was a young mechanical engineer and a science fiction writer. It was this mixture that, over time, would make him one of NASA's most important strategic minds. Every day he travelled back and forth in his Chevrolet Impala convertible between the "Von Braun Hilton" at MSFC and the modest house No. 1420 on Monte Sano. "If there was ever a traffic jam on Governors Drive, the beer at the Mexican "EL Palacio" was cold enough and the subs at the Sub Villa always tasted good when work went on through the night." - Puttkamer would later say to his international students.

In the 1960s, Puttkamer worked on the survey and comparative analysis of current geophysical models (NASA TN D-5163) and the reusability of the Saturn V 1st stage. His book about the Apollo 11 flight "Columbia, hier spricht Adler", which, to this day, is still the most translated travelogue of the first moon landing, became internationally popular.

During this time, Puttkamer travelled to many conferences to promote and educate about the landings on the moon and to illustrate visions for missions to Mars and other planets. He drew posters and sketches by hand and illustrated technical and popular literature.


After being recalled to NASA Headquarters in Washington, Puttkamer directed the strategic planning division and the promotion of space shuttles. For this, he invited the Star Trek crew to the rollout, installed Nichelle Nichols (Uhura) as NASA ambassador and advised Gene Roddenberry on the first "Star Trek" movie in 1977. His baby in the 1980s, however, was the "Space Station Alpha", which still does its work as the "International Space Station" ISS in orbit today, through the help of multinational cooperation. Puttkamer was its first NASA director between 1998 and 2012.


Puttkamer passed away 10 years ago on 27.12.2022. But his memory remains: through international schools still bearing his name to this day, an asteroid with the name 266725 Vonputtkamer and currently, through the "Return to the Moon" with the launch of Artemis 1, which he had been supporting for a long time. Next year would have been his 90th birthday.

To mark the "Return to the Moon" and his 89th birthday, which would be on 22nd of September 2022, a memorial plaque will be installed at his home in Huntsville, Alabama, after the planned launch of Artemis 1. He lived there for 12 years during the Apollo era and was the source of decisive strategic visions for space travel as we know it today. 

All of Puttkamer's companions, living Apollo engineers and their interested descendants, MSFC engineers and scientists as well as representatives of Space Camp and the NASA Human Exploration Roverchallenge are invited. 

jvp-drawing-rangeWhile clearing up the attic of his house, colored hand drawings and sketches of Puttkamer's thoughts, which were thought to have been lost, were found. They show  NASA's thoughts before the first manned moon landing, as well as ideas for the exploration of Mars and Jupiter. They represent a unique comparison between vision and possibility, which is more relevant today than ever before.

The authenticity of the drawings has now been confirmed by the historican of NASA Headquarters and proposed by Dr. Alotta Taylor to be exhibited at international events by the Jesco von Puttkamer Campus teams. They will be on display in their original form for the first time on the day of the inauguration of his memorial plaque in Huntsville, Alabama.

Location: Huntsville Alabama, Monte Sano Blvd SE, 1420
Time: will be choosen asap beetween 09/08 and 09/10/2022

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Education - Summer school
There are no translations available.

„Der Schatten zeigt, wie ZEIT entflieht, obwohl die ZEIT man gar nicht sieht.“
Heinrich Christian Schumacher, Astronom und Geodät (1780-1850)

mexicoLeipzig, 21.03.2022 Gestern war Frühjahrs-Äquinoktium 2022 (Vernal-Equinox, Sonntag, 20. März, 16:32 Uhr), damit ist die Tag-Nacht-Gleiche gemeint. Es sind Tag und Nacht exakt jeweis12 Stunden lang. Die Ekliptik unseres Zentralgestirnes schneidet den Erdäquator. Damit beginnt der astronomische Sommer auf unserer Nordhalbkugel und die Tage sind nun bis zur nächsten Tag-Nacht-Gleiche länger als die Nächte.

Dieses Ereignis läutet nicht nur den astronomischen Frühling und den Countdown zur Sommerzeit ein, sondern ist auch auf horizontalen Sonnenuhren ein besonderes Ereignis - eine gerade Linie. Das International Space Education Institute stellt ab diesem Ereignis nun bis zum 23.9.2022 die zweitgrößte horizontale Sonnenuhr Deutschlands ein. Der Zeigerschatten (hier eine 7 meter hohe Rakete) schreibt eine exakte Linie. Die aus Edelstahl gelaserten Ziffern werden stündlich angebracht. Pfeile komplettieren alle 15 Minuten das Äquinoktikum-Ziffernblatt.

Das Besondere an diesem Ziffernstrahl ist, es ist eine Linie. Der Zeigerschatten der Rakete wandert aktuell zur Mittagszeit um 4,6 cm pro Minute. Eine Viertelstunde sind bereits 70 cm. Die Ziffern einer ganzen Stunde stehen 2,80 meter voneinander ab. Ab der Tag-Nach-Gleiche nun wölben sich die Ziffernlinien wöchentlich um den Zeiger, um nach dem Herbst-Äquinotikum eine offene Parabel von der Rakete weg zu beschreiben. So verkürzte sich der Zeigerschatten an nur einem Tag zwischen dem 20. und 21. Mörz bereits um 8 cm.

overviewjescoDer 8-jährige Jesco Heckel und seine Schwester Cosma setzen ab nun wöchentlich die Ziffern und gleichen den aktuellen Schatten mit einer Funkuhr ab. Dabei wurde die Sonnenuhr bereits auf Sommerzeit programmiert. Alle Zeiten innerhalb der Äquinoktikum-Linie sind Sommerzeit. Außerhalb ist Winterzeit. Das nun entstehende Ziffernblatt wird mehrere Schleifen enthalten, welchedie Ellipsenform der Erdbahn um die Sonne wiedergeben.

eclipticshaddowDas nächste besondere Ereignis bahnt sich in der zweiten Maiwoche an. Hier wird erwartet, dass sich die Schattenbahnen vor und nach der Sommersonnenwende schneiden und das einzige einheitliche Ziffernblatt des Jahres erzeugen. In allen anderen Wochen klaffen die Zeitlinien von Sommer- und Winterzeit um teilweise bis zu einer halben Stunde auseinander. Diese Schleifen sind auchbekannt durch die Mittagssonnenuhr am Royal Greenwich Observatory nahe London. Mithilfe dieser vertikalen Sonnenuhr wurden bis in das 20. Jahrhundert hinein Uhren zur Mittagszeit gestellt.

winterspringDie Leipziger Sonnenuhr ist nach Lüneburg mit ihrem 31 meter großem Zifferblatt und dem 7 meter Zeiger die zweitgrößte horizontale Sonnenuhr Deutschlands und die größte Sachsens. Sie ist eines der vielen Attraktionen, welche Ferienlagerkinder ab den diesjährigen Soimmercamp für Junge Naturforscher erwarten. Ab den Ferien führt der gemeinnützige Verein an der Wurzner Straße 4 wöchentliche Feriencamps mit Übernachtung im Space Hotel, Vollverpflegung und Vollprogramm an.

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