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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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