After World War II, during which his family lived in Switzerland, von Puttkamer studied mechanical engineering at Konstanz and the Technische Hochschule (RWTH Aachen) in Aachen, graduating with a university degree. In 1962 he left Germany for the United States, where he joined Wernher von Braun’s rocket team at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama as an engineer during the Apollo Program.
He had already moved to NASA Headquarters when I joined NASA, but somewhere I have a picture of Jesco von Puttkamer and Gene Roddenberry on the set of the first Star Trek movie. von Puttkamer was one of several German engineers who were not part of Operation Paperclip but came to the United States later to join von Braun’s team.
h/t reader Bill.
von Puttkamer was technical advisor for Star Trek-The Motion Picture, providing comments on warp drive, black holes, wormholes, matter implosion theory, and script continuity (at no cost to the taxpayer, I might add).
Star Trek particularly interested him because it showed a regard for true science, and because it gave people a vision of what the realities of space could be. In fact, he feels that Star Trek did this in some ways that NASA could not. For example, NASA’s own Apollo moon shots never gave the impression of great speed in spite of the fact that they traveled thousands of miles an hour. Jesco was impressed with the initial Enterprise fly-by in the television show opening, which gave a feeling of the tremendous speeds the ship can reach. This was just the sort of thing NASA needed to get the interest and support of the general public.