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.