Sigmund Jähn

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Sigmund Jähn
Sigmund Jahn cropped.jpg
Sigmund Jahn, 1978.
Sigmund Jähn Signature.svg
Interkosmos Cosmonaut
Nationality German
Born (1937-02-13) 13 February 1937 (age 85)
Morgenröthe-Rautenkranz, Saxony, Germany
Other occupation
Rank GDR AF OF6MajGen Fly-suit.JPG Major general,[citation needed] Air Forces of the National People's Army
Time in space
7d 20h 49m
Selection 1976 Intercosmos Group
Missions Soyuz 31/Soyuz 29
Mission insignia
Soyuz 31 mission patch.svg

Sigmund Werner Paul Jähn (born 13 February 1937) is a German astronaut and pilot, who in 1978 became the first German to fly in space as part of the Soviet Union's Interkosmos programme.


Jähn was born on 13 February 1937 in Morgenröthe-Rautenkranz, in the Vogtland district of Saxony, Germany. From 1943 to 1951 he attended school in his hometown. He trained as a printer until 1954 and then managed the pioneer program in a local school.[1]

On 26 April 1955 he joined the East German Air Force, where he became a pilot. From 1961 to 1963 he was deputy commander for political work and from in 1965 became responsible for air tactics and air shooting. From 1966 to 1970 he studied at the Gagarin Air Force Academy in Monino, in the Soviet Union. From 1970 to 1976, he worked in the administration of the East German air force, responsible for pilot education and flight safety.[1]

File:Interkosmos patch for GDR Cosmonauts.svg
Sigmund Jähn's national space patch from the airforce of the National People's Army

On 25 November 1976, Jähn and his backup Eberhard Köllner were selected for the Interkosmos program. After a brief period of basic training, they devoted a year to mission specific training.[1] He trained in Star City near Moscow.[citation needed] He flew on board Soyuz 31, launched 26 August 1978 to the Soviet space station Salyut 6. he conducted experiments in remote sensing of the earth, medicine, biology, materials science, and geophysics. He returned on Soyuz 29 after 124 orbits and landed on 3 September 1978. He spent 7 days, 20 hours, and 49 minutes in space.[1] Because the Soviet and American space programs maintained distinctive vocabularies, he was a cosmonaut rather than an astronaut.

During and after the flight, he and the socialist authorities of the GDR pronounced him "the first German cosmonaut", which was unusual because the East German state normally maintained careful distinctions between citizens of the GDR and citizens of West Germany.[citation needed]

Upon his return he headed the East Germany Army's Cosmonaut Training Center near Moscow until German unification in 1990, when he left the East German military with the rank of major general.[1] Jähn was awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union on 3 September 1978.[2] In 1983 he received a doctorate at the de (Zentralinstitut für Physik der Erde) in Potsdam, specialising in remote sensing of the earth.[1] He was instrumental in forming the Association of Space Explorers. He was a founding member in 1985 and served for several years on its Executive Committee.[1]

Starting in 1990, he worked as a freelance consultant for the German Aerospace Center and from 1993 also for the European Space Agency (ESA) to prepare for the Euromir missions. He retired in 2002.

Sigmund Jähn, 2009

In 2011, on the 50th anniversary of the first manned space flight by Yuri Gagarin, he explained to Der Spiegel that his taking a toy figure on his flight was not a personal choice. He took a Sandmännchen, a animated character featured on an East German children's television show, in order to film material for the show. Because he and fellow cosmonaut Vladimir Kovalyonok joked about Sandmännchen marrying another toy figure of the Russia mascot Masha, authorities found the material unsuitable for the public.[3]

Jähn is married and has two children. He lives in Strausberg and he enjoys reading and hunting.

Awards and recognition


  • "Dear TV viewers in the German Democratic Republic. I am very happy for the chance to be the first German to take part in this manned space flight." (during his space flight)[5]
  • "Mankind is advanced technically. Man can build space stations, can assemble them in space, and ponders about landing on Mars, but the development of mankind itself seems to stagnate on stone age level." (Radio broadcast in the 1990s)
  • "…what I saw then was total happiness: Our Earth, in shining in bright blue. Just like a dream." (SUPERillu magazine interview, 1998)[6]
  • "As a pilot I just could not resist the offer to fly a space capsule…" (speech in front of DLR audience, 2005)[7]

Cultural influence

  • A taxi driver greatly resembling Jähn (played by Swiss actor Stefan Walz) appears in the German film Good Bye, Lenin!.[8]
  • German pop group Die Prinzen, from the same region of Germany, recorded a song entitled "Wer ist Sigmund Jähn?" ("Who is Sigmund Jähn?") on their 1999 album So viel Spaß für wenig Geld.[9]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 "Biografie von Sigmund Jähn" (in Deutsch). European Space Agency. Retrieved 15 November 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Biography". Heroes of the Soviet Union and Russia (in русский).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "East German Cosmonaut Sigmund Jähn 'Capitalism Now Reigns in Space'". Der Spiegel. 12 April 2011. Retrieved 14 November 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Zum Ehreitglied der Leibniz-Societät gewält: Dr. Sigmund Jähn" (Press release) (in Deutsch). 1 March 2011. Retrieved 14 November 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. cited at Bild site "Erster Deutscher im Weltraum" (German)
  6. cited at MDR site "Damals in der DDR" (German)
  7. cited at German newspaper Stuttgarter Nachrichten site "Sigmund Jähn: erster Deutscher im All" (German)
  8. Goodbye, Lenin! on IMDb
  9. "Werke 1999"

External links

Media related to Sigmund Jähn at Wikimedia Commons