XXIII Congress of the Association of Space Explorers
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
October 5-10, 2010

Theme: "1 Planet, 1 Hope, 1 Future”
Planetary Award: Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad
Host: Sheikh Muszaphar

Fifty-eight astronauts and cosmonauts from 18 nations gathered October 5-10, 2010 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the XXIII Planetary Congress of the Association of Space Explorers (ASE). The theme of the XXIII Congress was “1 Planet, 1 Hope, 1 Future”, reflecting the Association’s belief that all nations and people play an important role in the protection and preservation of our home planet. The XXIII Planetary Congress was hosted by Malaysian astronaut Sheikh Muszaphar.

The Congress officially convened Tuesday morning with the traditional Opening Ceremony, held at the Hotel Istana in Kuala Lumpur. The ceremony began with a traditional Malaysian dance performance, followed by ASE president Chris Hadfield, who welcomed the delegates and assembled dignitaries and discussed the importance of the ASE visit to Malaysia and the impact the fliers hoped to have inspiring Malaysian students. Chapter presidents Bo Bobko and Viktor Savinykh joined Hadfield at the podium and called for a moment of silence in memory of Bill Lenoir, Vitaly Sevastyonov and Leonid Kizim, all of whom passed away in the interval between the XXII and XXIII Congresses. The Malaysian Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Dato Saifudden Abdullah followed with brief remarks describing the progress Malaysia has made in inspiring and cultivating technical excellence among its students, and pointed to Sheikh Muszaphar as an example that Malaysia is a contributing member of the international spacefaring community.

The Congress Theme Session followed the traditional Executive Committee press conference. Congress host Sheikh Muszaphar opened the session by describing the evolution of Malaysian scientific and technical capabilities and their contributions to Malaysian society. ESA astronaut Gerhard Thiele then led a panel discussion on space and exploration as a path to global identity, with Alexei Leonov, Rusty Schweickart, Sergei Avdeev, Chiaki Mukai, Franz Viehbock, Chris Hadfield, Yang Liwei and Rakesh Sharma participating. The panel examined of the meaning of exploration as reflected in the various cultures and languages of the participants; Chiaki Mukai captured the essence of the discussion by remarking that it is only by virtue of the fact that we are different that we can learn from each other, and those lessons can be leveraged in support of collaborative exploration.

Tuesday afternoon, the fliers continued their work in the first of two closed sessions. During this executive session, the delegates developed candidate lists for the upcoming executive committee elections, formally approved formation and incorporation of ASE–Europe, discussed amendments to the ASE Charter and discussed plans for future Congresses and activities.

At the welcome dinner that evening, the delegated were treated to traditional Malaysian cuisine and entertainment, attended as well by representatives of the respective fliers' embassies and the Malaysian Deputy Minister of Higher Education. The evening included the now traditional ceremony whereby new ASE members and first time Congress participants are recognized individually and officially awarded their ASE member insignia. Receiving their pins this evening were Anousheh Ansari (US), Bob Cabana (US), Fei Junlong (China), Soichi Noguchi (Japan), John Phillips (US) and Gerhard Thiele (Germany).

Wednesday morning, the delegates travelled to UKM (National University of Malaysia), alma mater of Congress host Sheikh Muszaphar. The first session of the day was the traditional International Space Programs Review (Part I). Chaired by Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov, the session featured NASA astronaut John Phillips, who reported on the science, crew rotations and final shuttle flights leading up to ISS complete. Lockheed Martin representative and former astronaut Pam Melroy followed with a briefing on the Orion crew exploration vehicle and Russian cosmonaut Valery Ryumin discussed Energiya's plans for Soyuz follow-on piloted transport systems. Cosmonaut Alexander Poleshchuk followed with a discussion of piloted flights to Mars, including required vehicles, EVA equipment, and crew psychological support. Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei concluded the session with an overview of the development of China's spaceflight capability, including plans to develop a man-tended space station, a next generation heavy-lift rocket, and described the most recent taikonaut selection.

While the fliers were in session, the companions and spouses enjoyed a selection of tour options, including a visit to the Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) and its associated tropical rain forest, with a stop for tea and a variety of Malaysian Kuih at the Malay Tea House. A second option was a cultural excursion to experience Batik painting at the Wok Batik Central Market, with photo stops at the Petronas Twin Towers and the Chinese Temple.

Following lunch at UKM with students and faculty, the fliers re-convened for the second technical session of the day. Chaired by former astronaut Jim Voss, the session focused on commercial orbital space transportation. Voss began with an overview of the current effort to transition from government to commercial space transportation alternatives. Former astronaut Bob Cabana provided a US government perspective on the transition, Richard Garriott described the potential benefits to the personal, private spaceflight market and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gidzenko discussed Russian commercial efforts. Former astronaut Leroy Chiao presented the Augustine Commission recommendations, and Jim Voss concluded the session with a discussion of the US commercial spaceflight industry perspective.

Thursday was the traditional Congress Community Day, styled in Malaysia as the "Campus Space Walk". ASE members traveled to visit with over 15000 students, scientists, media and the public at schools, universities and institutes all over Malaysia.

On Friday, the delegates traveled to MultiMedia University in nearby Cyberjaya for a second day of technical discussions and briefings, where the delegates were welcomed by Dr. Zaharin Yusoff, president of the university. The first session of the day was International Space Programs Review (Part II), chaired by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. ESA astronauts Reinhold Ewald and Gerhard Thiele discussed ESA's OasISS mission to the International Space Station and the most recent European astronaut selection with its multi-phased approach, respectively. JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi garnered Best Paper honors with his overview of JAXA activities in 2009 and 2010, with a detailed look at KIBO, JEM and HTV operations and the roadmap for future Japanese manned spaceflight activities. Hadfield concluded the session with an in-depth briefing on Canada's contributions to the ISS and a review of Canada's earth observation and remote sensing capabilities.

In the interim following lunch, the fliers gathered for the second all hands Executive Session. Rusty Schweickart briefed the group on the current activities and future plans of the Near Earth Objects Committee and a resolution on climate change was discussed and approved. Dorin Prunariu, as president pro tempore of ASE-Europe, was installed on the Executive Committee and ASE-Russia president Viktor Savinykh issued a formal invitation to the XXIV Congress in Russia. Elections to the Executive Committee were held and Reinhold Ewald (Germany) was re-elected for a second term and Yuri Gidzenko (Russia) and Soichi Noguchi (Japan) were both elected to their first terms on the Association's international executive body.

While the fliers were in session, the spouses and companions enjoyed a morning excursion to the Royal Selangor Pewter School with an en route stop at the world famous Batu Caves.

The second technical session of the day, also hosted by MMU, featured a panel discussion on climate change and its impact on human welfare. Chaired by JAXA astronaut Chiaki Mukai, the panel included Dr. Yap Kok Seng of the Malaysian Meteorological Department, who discussed the impact of climate change science on policy making in Malaysia, followed by Dr. Salmah Zakaria, former Director General of the National Hydraulic Institute of Malaysia (NAHRIM), who focused on the impact of climate change on Malaysian access to fresh water. NASA astronaut Mario Runco briefed the earth science and remote sensing capabilities of the ISS with an emphasis on the Destiny module science window and the Window Observational Research Facility (WORF), and ESA astronaut Christer Fuglesang discussed the value of ISS as a platform for climate change studies. Former Russian cosmonaut Viktor Savinykh concluded the session with a presentation on the recent Russian wildfires and an overview of the Russian space-based assets used to characterize, monitor and fight the fires.

That evening, fliers and spouses gathered at the PKNS SACC for the traditional Closing Ceremony and banquet. After brief remarks by representatives of PKNS and Congress host Sheikh Muszaphar, the guests were treated to entertainment and music with dinner. Following dinner, ASE president Chris Hadfield presented the first of two awards for the evening; John Fabian was called to the stage to be inducted as an ASE Distinguished Member, for his longstanding and outstanding service to the ASE and its mission. Hadfield also presented Soichi Noguchi with an award for the best technical presentation at the Congress, the first such award at an ASE Congress.

On Saturday, the fliers and companions enjoyed free time in addition to a half-day excursion tour of Kuala Lumpur. Sunday morning, fliers and guests attended the wedding of Congress host Sheikh Muszaphar at the Putrajaya mosque, followed by a short bus tour of Putrajaya.

Sunday evening, the delegates traveled back to Putrajaya for Muszaphar's wedding reception at the Putrajaya Convention Center. In addition to the fliers and spouses, the guest list included the Prime Minister of Malaysia, the Sultans of the Malaysian states and representatives of the Malaysian and Saudi royal families. After an evening of ceremony and dinner, the final ASE awards of the Congress were presented.Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, former prime minister of Malaysia, was awarded the Crystal Helmet for his role in modernizing Malaysia and creating the political and technical conditions that enabled Malaysia's nascent spacefaring capability. Dr. Mazlan Othman was awarded the Association's Leonov Medallion for her singular efforts to create a role for Malaysia as a member of the international spacefaring community, for promoting education in science, technology and engineering in Malaysia, and for her continued contributions to international cooperation in space in her role as Director of the Office of Outer Space Affairs.

Outgoing ASE president Chris Hadfield was also awarded a Leonov Medallion, for his outstanding leadership, diplomatic skills and service as the first non-US, non-Russian president of the international ASE. A final Leonov Medallion was presented to Congress host Sheikh Muszaphar for his contributions as host of the XXIII Planetary Congress in Malaysia, and for his prominent role inspiring students in Malaysia and South-East Asia.

The Association would like to extend its gratitude to Leena Malini, Razlan Dawood, Aloysius Wee, Pheobe Tan and the rest of the team at Beyond Events for their hard work in organizing the XXIII Congress.

XXIII Congress Poster