XII Congress of the Association of Space Explorers
Montreal, Ottawa and Quebec, Canada
September 28-October 4, 1996

Theme: "Cooperation in Space, Progress for Humanity"
Crystal Helmet Award: Nicolas Matte
Host: Steve MacLean


The XII Planetary Congress of the Association of Space Explorers was held in Ottawa, Montreal, and Quebec City, Canada from September 28-October 4, 1996. Forty Eight US, Russian, and international astronauts and cosmonauts and their spouses enjoyed Canadian hospitality while keeping to a demanding schedule of working sessions and public appearances. The XII Congress was hosted by Steve MacLean and the Canadian Astronaut Program and was sponsored by, among others, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the Department of National Defense (DND), and the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute (CASI).

The Congress began on Saturday, September 28 with a Canada-wide educational blitz with 22 fliers visiting 11 cities from the Northwest Territories to Quebec. Although a planned satellite link-up between the cities and the MIR station failed to operate as planned, the effort generated much excitement and enthusiasm among the many school-children and parents who participated. Those fliers and guests who did not participate in the blitz were treated to an evening hockey game between the Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning at the Corel Centre in Ottawa.

On Sunday September 29, congress participants assembled at the Museum of Civilization in Hull, Ontario, just across the river from the hotels. Following breakfast, the fliers toured the museum exhibits, signed autographs, and mingled with the public. After a buffet lunch and a briefing by Steve MacLean, the first working session of the congress took place in the Museum itself. Session chairs Roberta Bondar and Gennadi Strekalov lead the discussion on the benefits of space life sciences research with a brief video of Strekalov's TM-10 flight and a report by Bondar on the applicability of ground- based studies on ailments such as spinal cord injuries and diseases the nervous system. Also in this session, Charlie Walker presented a paper on the preparation of biological and medical research materials in orbit. Following the day's activities, congress participants attended a screening of the IMAX film The Blue Planet before having dinner with corporate and community leaders in the museum's Great Hall of Civilization.

Monday began with a buffet breakfast sponsored by CASI at the Hotel Laurier, where Jon McBride and Vladimir Kovolyonok spoke on behalf of the assembled fliers, and Don Williams showed a brief, animated film of a possible future crewed mission to Mars. Following the breakfast, the delegations traveled to Rideau Hall, the official residence of the Governor-General of Canada, where the official Opening Ceremony of the Congress was held. The Governor-General welcomed the astronauts and cosmonauts to Canada and expressed his appreciation for the dedication and commitment of all the world's fliers in the pursuit of space exploration.

Returning to the Museum of Civilization, the fliers convened the second working session of the Congress; discussion centered around the need to consolidate ASE activities through the re-establishment and tasking of the international standing committees. Committee chairs were selected and tasked with organizing their respective committees and preparing mid-term and long- term plans, to be reported on at each mid-year meeting of the Executive Committee and at each congress. In the evening the delegations were treated to a reception on Parliament Hill followed by dinner at the private residences of Ottawa's business, political, and cultural community.

On Tuesday morning, congress participants traveled two hours by bus directly to the Canadian Space Agency near Montreal for the congress Theme Session. Romanian-born Canadian Nicolas Mateesco Matte, a pioneer scholar in the field of space law, delivered the keynote address. Prior to accepting the Crystal Helmet Planetary Award, he reminded the assembled fliers and dignitaries of the importance and efficacy of codifying international standards of conduct and cooperation in outer space, and he expressed his admiration for those [fliers] who are “living proof that the impossible could become possible.” He also noted his belief that in an ever-changing world, the legal profession still has an important role in the development of national and global space activities, and he spoke of the need for an inter-disciplinary and multi-cultural approach to the teaching and practice of space exploration. Following the theme session, the fliers and companions took advantage of some free time to wander around historic downtown Montreal before departing for a dinner sponsored by CASI at the Bonaventure Hotel.

Wednesday was another full day for the delegates--returning to CSA in St. Hubert, the fifth working session of the congress was held featuring a presentation by Gordon Fullerton on the flight characteristics of thrust vector propulsion systems, a report by Mario Runco on his recent flight on STS-77, an update on Canadian activities in space by Chris Hadfield, Steve MacLean and Bob Thirsk, and a video was shown by Alexei Leonov on his Voskhod 2 spaceflight and EVA. Following a buffet lunch with the Canadian astronauts and the employees of CSA, the fliers attended the official christening of the Canadian Space Agency as the John H. Chapman Space Center.

Concluding the ceremony and visit to Montreal, the assembled astronauts and cosmonauts signed commemorative congress posters and assembled in the futuristic lobby of the CSA for a group photo. Directly from the space center, the delegations traveled 3 hours by bus to a reception on board Canada's newest frigate, the HMCS Ottawa in Quebec City harbor, where they were treated to a buffet dinner and a warm welcome by the officers and crew.

Thursday, the last full day of the congress, was devoted almost exclusively to working sessions. Held at Canadian Forces Base Valcartier in Quebec City, the fliers listened to presentations made by Konstantin Feoktistiov, who delivered a highly detailed and technical presentation on the aerospike engine design; Frank Culbertson discussed Phase I and Phase II Shuttle/Mir operations and plans; Koichi Wakata talked about the cultural and language barriers to international crew training and operations, and Charlie Precourt discoursed on the implications international cooperation will have on space flight (crew) safety and made some specific recommendations for establishing an international body, staffed by current and former astronauts, with safety oversight responsibilities.

Following the working sessions, the Executive Session of the congress was held; during this session Fred Gregory and Alexei Leonov were elected to the Co- Presidency of the international association, and Miroslaw Hermaszewski, Ulf Merbold, and Charlie Walker were elected to the international Executive Committee.

XII Congress Poster | XII Congress General Statement