The Eleventh Planetary Congress of the Association of Space Explorers was held in Warsaw and Krakow, Poland, September 10-17, 1995. Fifty astronauts and cosmonauts and their spouses from twelve countries attended the annual gathering, which was hosted by Polish cosmonaut Miroslaw Hermaszewski. The Congress program included discussions and reports by ASE members, Polish dignitaries and scholars on the Congress theme Space and Contemporary Society. In addition, ASE members visited various venues of cultural, scientific and historical significance in Warsaw, Krakow, Deblin and Zakopane.
The Opening Ceremony of the Congress took place in Warsaw's historic Royal Castle, with representatives of the Polish government and of the Vatican in attendance. The delegates were welcomed by Frederick Gregory on behalf of the Association of Space Explorers-USA and by Alexei Leonov of behalf of ASE-Russia. The keynote address was made by Professor Leszek Kuznicki of the Polish Academy of Sciences, who described the evolution of mankind's perception of the universe and society's place in it. Professor Kuznicki also described the developments in scientific thought which have contributed to our ever-expanding knowledge of the universe. Kuznicki remarked that knowledge about the universe...allows us to see and realize the uniqueness of our planet Earth, and the uniqueness of life on it...Mankind divided today into societies representing various levels of development can become fully modern only when we all realize how unique and special life is, and transform that awareness into the conduct of our everyday activities. At the conclusion of the Opening Ceremony Frederick Gregory and Alexei Leonov, on behalf of the Association presented ASE Medallions, specially designed and produced by Leonov, to Polish President Lech Walensa and Pope John Paul II through their attending representatives. Following the ceremony, a press conference was held at the castle to announce the opening of the Congress.
While in Warsaw, working sessions were held at the Conference Center of the Polish Army. In the international space program update session, Alexei Leonov gave a detailed account of the difficulties he encountered on the first spacewalk ever made, while Viktor Savinykh and Vladimir Dezhurov reported on their recent long duration expedition to the Russian space station MIR. Hoot Gibson and Charlie Precourt followed with a briefing and video of their recent flight in February, the first Shuttle-MIR docking mission. Henry Hartsfield, Jr. did a slide presentation and lead a discussion on the status and preparation of the International Space Station.
Midway through the Congress, the members traveled to Krakow, stopping fir a few hours in nearby Deblin for a visit to the Polish Air Force Academy and a brief air show. Escorted the entire way by military police vehicles, the entourage cause quite a stir in the countryside; at the Academy, the astronauts and cosmonauts were besieged by admiring cadets.
In Krakow, the fliers met with the Mayor of Krakow and convened the Plenary Session of the Congress at the Jagallonian University (the University of Krakow, where Copernicus studied); Professor Bogdan Ney, Corresponding Member of the Polish Academy of Sciences, spoke on the contribution of Poland and Poles to the study and exploration of space. Also, during this session the ASE Planetary Award, the Crystal Helmet, was awarded to Polish science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem. Following the award ceremony a working session was held were professional facilitators guided a discussion among ASE members on the goals and objectives of manned space exploration.
In addition to their more formal activities, the astronauts and cosmonauts were treated to an entertaining trip the nearby resort city of Zakopane for an evening of Polish folkdancing and cuisine. The next afternoon the delegations took a rafting trip on the Dunajec River, which demarcates Poland's frontier with the Czech Republic; that evening, before returning to Warsaw, the members gathered for a gala banquet 150 meters under ground in the famous Wieliczka Salt Mine.
Upon their return to Warsaw, the delegates convened the closing session of the Congress. The Executive Committee issued the General Statement of the Eleventh Congress, approved Canada, Japan and the Czech Republic as the sites for the next three Congresses and elected Dumitru Prunariu (Romania) and Mamoru Mohri (Japan) to fill the seats vacated by outgoing executive committee members Ulf Merbold (Germany) and Bertalan Farkas (Hungary).