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2003-9 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 12, 2003

Researcher-Pilot Will Relate Joys and Adventures from Six Decades of Atmospheric Science Exploration

Free Public Talk, Wednesday, February 19, 5:30 p.m., Boulder Public Library Auditorium


David Hosansky
UCAR Communications
Telephone: (303) 497-8611
E-mail: hosansky@ucar.edu

BOULDER—How many people do you know who use the words "joy" and "adventure" when describing their jobs? Joachim Kuettner is one person who still finds his 64-year career exhilarating.

Kuettner will share his enthusiasms in a free public talk, "The Joy and Adventure of Exploring the Atmosphere," on Wednesday, February 19, at 5:30 p.m., in the Boulder Public Library auditorium at 9th Street and Canyon Boulevard.

Kuettner grew up in Germany but is truly a global citizen through his efforts on behalf of international science and soaring. And he has many a tale to tell. He worked on the Mercury Project, which put the first U.S. astronauts into orbit, and the Apollo mission to the moon. Later he took the helm of major international atmospheric research projects. Meanwhile, he set several records and pulled out of a few close calls flying unmotorized aircraft. His high-flying exploits have earned him a place in the Soaring Hall of Fame. Through it all he's never lost touch with the sense of wonder that fuels his endeavors.

"It's a challenge and joy to get intimate with the atmosphere," says Kuettner. "Two ways I've done this are while being alone on a mountaintop observatory and while soaring in a sailplane."

A true explorer-scientist, Kuettner's doctoral thesis at the University of Hamburg in 1939 provided the first scientific description and explanation of so-called "mountain waves," which glider pilots had known about for some time. On one experimental flight, he climbed to 23,000 feet without oxygen, an unofficial world altitude record. In later years he would set several other soaring milestones, including the first high-altitude, long-distance flight in waves and, in 1955, the first solo flight to an altitude of 43,000 feet.

During World War II Kuettner became an aeronautical engineer and test pilot for the German aircraft industry. Right after the war he spent three years at Germany's highest mountain observatory. But he was soon invited to the United States by U.S. colleagues to become scientific director of the Sierra Wave Project, which explored severe mountain and jet stream turbulence over the Sierra Nevada.

In 1958 Kuettner joined NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where he directed the center’s role in the Mercury Project that put the first U.S. astronauts in space. For the Apollo Program, he worked on the integration of the lunar spacecraft with the giant Saturn-V rocket for the historic landing on the moon.

Kuettner came to Boulder in the late 1960s as director of advanced research projects at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and then was appointed by the World Meteorological Organization to lead a number of global experiments. One such project involved almost 4,000 participants and 40 ships.

Since 1985 Kuettner's research base has been the National Center for Atmospheric Research and its parent organization, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. In 1994 he was awarded the Distinguished Chair for Atmospheric Science and International Research at UCAR by the National Science Foundation. Kuettner continues his involvement in international field projects, most recently a study of air flow and precipitation over the European Alps in 1999. Among his awards are honorary doctor of science degrees from the Universities of Colorado and of Munich, Germany.

Kuettner's talk is the fifth Walter Orr Roberts Distinguished Lecture, sponsored by UCAR to honor outstanding researchers for their scientific achievements. Walt Roberts was the founding president of UCAR and first director of NCAR. Previous honorees are Warren Washington, John Firor, and Timothy Brown of NCAR, and Susan Solomon of NOAA.

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Joachim Kuettner (Photo courtesy UCAR/NCAR/NSF.)

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The National Center for Atmospheric Research and UCAR Office of Programs are operated by UCAR under the sponsorship of the National Science Foundation and other agencies. Opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any of UCAR's sponsors. UCAR is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer.

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