The 14th Planetary Congress of the Association of Space Explorers was held 19-23 October, 1998 in Brussels, Belgium. Hosted by Belgian flier Dirk Frimout (STS-45), the theme of the 14th Congress was Space and EducationA Message to the Youth and many of the week's activities included the participation of students from all over Belgium and Europe. Eighty-seven fliers and spouses from 18 countries attended.
The Opening Ceremony of the Congress was held Monday morning with over 300 students, government officials and T.M. the King and Queen of Belgium in attendance. The ceremony was held at the Congress Palace in downtown Brussels and hosted by the Belgian Federal Minister for Science Policy, the Vice-Prime Minister of Belgium and the Belgian Minister for National Defense. The Opening Address was made by the Federal Minister for Science Policy, Mr. Yvan Ylieff who welcomed the assembled astronauts to Belgium and introduced Belgian flier and Congress host Dirk Frimout . Frimout introduced the Congress theme and spoke on the inextricable link between space and education, presenting the astronauts and cosmonauts as role models for all humanity and appealing to the assembled students and children everywhere to take advantage of opportunities to pursue a life-long program of education. ASE Co-Presidents Alexei Leonov and Frederick Gregory followed with a brief history of the Association and its Congresses and the important role that space research and exploration play in the development of modern society. To close out the ceremony, three Belgian students who were chosen to address the session spoke on how space exploration inspired their academic goals and Antonio Rodota, Director General of the European Space Agency recapped ESA's 1998 activities in space and its plans for the coming century. Following the ceremony, T.M. the King and Queen were introduced to a small group of fliers during a cocktail reception at the Congress Palace.
Monday afternoon, the Theme Session was convened, again at the Congress Palace and European Commissioner for Science, Research and Development Mme. Edith Cresson was awarded the 1998 ASE Planetary Award, the Crystal Helmet, for her efforts to promote education in science and engineering among European youth. Chaired by ASE members Jon McBride and Gennadi Strekalov, the session also featured remarks by Karl Doetsch, president of the International Space University, ASE members Wubbo Ockels and Alexander Serebrov and Hugo Wexks, Chairman of the Belgian Federal Council of Science Policy. That evening, the Award Banquet was held at the Belgian Air & Space Museum in Brussels, where a Certificate of Recognition and Appreciation was awarded to the Euro Space Center in Transinne for their efforts in promoting space exploration .
Tuesday, October 20 featured the European Academic Session at the Royal Belgian Academy of Sciences, chaired by ASE members Dumitru Prunariu and Ulf Merbold. The session focused on European space research and activities. After an opening statement by Congress host Dirk Frimout, Mr. Martin Huber, Director of the ESTEC-ESA Space Science Department, reported on European activities in the field of life sciences; Jean-Paul Malingreau of the European Joint Research Center spoke on European achievements in the field of Earth observations; Maurice Praet, Vice-president of Alcatel ETCA gave an overview of European activities in the field of space telecommunications and Matthias Ruete of the European Commission described European policy in the field of satellite positioning/navigation systems.
After a short break for lunch, Ulf Merbold reported on European manned space activities; Dumitru Prunariu and Miroslaw Hermaszewski spoke on the status of space research and development in Central and Eastern Europe; and Jörg Feustel-Buechl, ESTEC-ESA Director of Manned Spaceflight and Microgravity gave a brief summary of European involvement in the International Space Station. While the European Academic Session was taking place, several ASE members traveled to Belgacom headquarters in Brussels to participate in a nationwide internet conference with students from all over Belgium.