First German in space: Sigmund Jähn – The cosmonaut of Straussee

Strausberg –

In the GDR he was celebrated as a hero, even today he is almost worshiped as a pop star. Nevertheless, Sigmund Jähn (81), the first German who flew to the stars 40 years ago, remained on the ground. His worship is almost shameful. "Everyone could have made the flight with the necessary qualifications, it was all coincidence and good luck that I was the one now," says Sigmund Jähn, while the COURIER visits him in Strausberg.

Fanmail from all over the world

Anyone who stands in front of the East German cosmonaut's house at the Straussee knows immediately that he is at the right address. Large hangs above the entrance a sculpture on which the space station Salut 6, which Jähn visited in 1978, revolves around the earth.

An elderly man holding a box of mail in his hands.

The post office was back. Jähn shows a box full of fan letters.

The landlord appears in a striped shirt with short sleeves, his white hair is combed back. Jähn leads to the study under the roof, full of memories of his cosmic journey. Not only the logos of the then Interkosmos mission stay at the door next to the photo's of his seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. In many folders and files he has kept photographs and documents of the flight. Fanmail is piled up in different courses. "I always get letters from all over the world," says Jähn. "Now, at the anniversary, it's almost 100 a day, I'll answer them all, but I just do not have time."

Even as a boy, he dreamed of flying

The cosmonaut legend often travels, his knowledge is still popular with researchers, space agencies and institutes. There are also invitations from schools and museums. "I just can not say no, I love being with people." Especially in those in his birthplace Vogtland Morgenröthe-Rautenkranz. There, the anniversary of the historic flight is celebrated on Sunday. Jähn will be there as guest of honor.

He points to his computer at the desk, where he edits the reading he wants to keep. "You know," says Jähn, "I dreamed of flying like a boy, it was a war when bombers suddenly appeared in my hometown and flew to Plauen, everyone was shocked, but I was very happy how fascinating the machines in the air flew. "

After the war Jähn wanted to become a pilot. & # 39; But my father forbade me to go to high school, even though I was a good student. I should become a printer, "he says." And then it came as a coincidence that everything would have to change. "

"Space travel was then firmly in the hands of the Russians and the Americans."

During the busier learning time, Jähn met a friend who went to the topped People & # 39; s Police, the predecessor of the NVA. "He told me you even have planes there, so I registered there in 1955. But I would only have to work as a printer, I sold the officers until they allowed me to become a pilot."

That was almost wrong. "With the medical fitness test, my blood levels were suddenly bad, and a check showed that the first measurement was wrong," says Jähn.
In 1957 the Soviets sent the first artificial satellite, the Sputnik, into space. In 1961 Yuri Gagarin was the first to flee into the cosmos and in 1969 the Americans conquered the moon.

"Of course, I thought it would be nice if you were there in space," says Jähn. "I never believed it, it would seem unlikely that a German would ever launch into space, space was firmly in the hands of the Russians and the Americans – then."

No friendship service from the Soviets in the GDR

That changed in 1976. Jähn shows photos that show him in the Soviet cosmonaut training center near Moscow, the star city. "The Soviets opened their space program for other nations, it was a coincidence that I belonged, and then I came shortlisted with three others Just a few weeks before the start I learned that I, the first German, on August 26, 1978 flying into space, it was certainly not a heroic act on my part. "

Two older gentlemen.

With all-fellow Waleri Bykowski years ago in Morgenröthe-Rautenkranz. In July, Jähn met his friend in Russia: "It is not going well with him."

Jähn shows a lot of photo's of the flight and suddenly reports that this was not a Soviet-friendly service to the GDR. "We had to pay well," says Jähn. How much, he does not know. "In the 80s a GDR cosmonaut had to start all over again in space, I prepared everything, but the Soviets asked me:" You have good people, good ideas, do you have good money? " GDR did not have it, the Soviets looked around in the West Germans, who had good money. & # 39;

Jähn tells how he then traveled to Cologne with permission from Honecker to the German Aerospace Center to prepare the German Germans for a mission with the Russians, which existed in the early 1990s – including Klaus-Dietrich Flade (1992 ).

"I was really lucky in this life"

Jähn would be happy if the crowds around his person would decrease. "Then I can rest in the Straussee, take a walk in the woods with my wife Erika," he says. And he would have more time for the garden and his greenhouse, where he grows cucumbers. Jähn does not want to complain. "I was really lucky in this life, it was all fun," he says.

An elderly gentleman in a greenhouse

In the greenhouse, Jähn also grows cucumbers.

Whether Jähn, who flew safely into the spacecraft 40 years ago, is also a good driver, we want to know. "Well, yes – I have a few taps," he says. Then Jähn reveals: "A few weeks ago I brought a friend to the train station in Vogtland, I probably gave too much gas and was caught, and as a punishment I had to pay 150 euros, plus there was a point in Flensburg – I do not have a star status the police. "

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