As a citizen of the then German Democratic Republic, Sigmund Jähn became the first German in space on 26 August 1978. Accompanied by Soviet cosmonaut Valery Bykowski, Jähn flew on the Soyuz 29 mission to the Salyut 6 space station, where he performed a number of scientific experiments. Orbiting Earth with his MKF-6m camera 125 times during the eight-day flight, Jähn became an instant sensation in both East and West Germany.
Born on 13 February 1937 in Vogtland (Morgenröthe-Rautenkranz, Saxony), the space pioneer gained an early opportunity to become acquainted with Swjosdny Gorodok (Star City) – though not with the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre – while studying at the Soviet Air Force Academy at Monino. However, the idea of becoming a cosmonaut had not occurred to him at this point, nor could he imagine having the chance to fly to space one day.
All this changed in the summer of 1976 – the Soviet Union proposed that cosmonaut candidates for a new spaceflight programme be drawn from the 'Intercosmos' countries. The final four of an original 30 candidates travelled to Star City that November for the decisive final examination. Two German candidates made it through: Sigmund Jähn and Eberhard Köllner. Amid tight secrecy, the pair moved with their families to Moscow during the winter of 1976/77. They faced two years of training, culminating in one of them flying to space.
At Star City in the 1990s, Jähn worked intensively on international collaboration in spaceflight, first with the German Aerospace Center (DLR), then with the European Space Agency (ESA) – "Sigmund Jähn's contribution to peaceful international collaboration in space cannot be overstated," said Sigmar Wittig, DLR Chairman at that time.