ASE XXIV Planetary Congress

"He Invited Us All to Space"

September 5-9, 2011
Moscow, Russia


Seventy-three astronauts, cosmonauts and taikonauts from 19 countries convened in Moscow, Russia, 5–9 September 2011 for the XXIV Planetary Congress of the Association of Space Explorers. Hosted by ASE-Russia, the theme of the XXIV Congress was “He Invited us all to Space”, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the flight of Yuri Gagarin.

Monday morning, Russian cosmonaut and ASE president Viktor Savinykh welcomed the delegates, their spouses, dignitaries and guests in the Grand Concert Hall of the Cosmos Hotel and officially opened the XXIV Congress. After an orchestral prelude, Savinykh remarked on the significance of Yuri Gagarin and man's first flight to space, and asked the audience to rise for a moment of silence for Russian cosmonaut Valeri Rozhdestvensky and US astronaut Mike Lounge, both of whom passed away in the interim since the last Congress. ROSCOSMOS Deputy Director Vitaly Davidov followed and spoke of the global benefits of space science, research and exploration. Davidov read a prepared statement on behalf of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Ivanov, who encouraged the fliers to reach out while in Russia and inspire the next generation of space explorers.

Anatoli Grigoriev of the Institute of Biomedical Problems and Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov took the podium and recounted the legacies of the early pioneers, including the work done by those who never flew to space. Leonov spoke about the early years of the ASE, and the important work done by ASE and its members to create the foundation for today's cooperation in space.

After the Opening Ceremony, fliers and spouses gathered on the steps of the Cosmos Hotel for the traditional group photograph.

Monday afternoon, fliers and guests assembled for the Congress Theme Session; co-chaired by ASE Executive Committee members Karol Bobko and Alexander Alexandrov, the session was titled "In the Footsteps of Gagarin" and reviewed some of the legacy exploration programs following man's early flights into space. Boris E. Chertok, a key engineering figure in the early Russian space program, opened the session with a presentation on Yuri Gagarin’s first flight. Alexei Leonov followed with a presentation on his flight aboard Voskhod 2 and recounted his experiences conducting the first space walk. After the break , Richard Richards gave an overview of Apollo, the US lunar program, and Bobko, Valeri Kubasov and Alexei Leonov discussed the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project and the contributions that program made to later cooperative endeavors in space. Following the historical spaceflight overview, ASE president Viktor Savinykh returned to the stage and awarded the 2011 ASE Planetary Award to Boris E. Chertok for his significant and enduring contributions to the human exploration of space.

Monday evening, fliers, spouses and guests were invited to an evening reception and welcome banquet at the Vechernii Kosmos restaurant. As part of the evening’s tradition, first time Congress participants were awarded their ASE lapel pins in front of their friends and colleagues.

Tuesday morning, the fliers traveled to the Bauman Technical University for the day’s technical sessions while the companions enjoyed a morning excursion to Moscow’s Kremlin. Back at Bauman, the first technical session, titled "In the Footsteps of Gagarin", featured a discussion of some of the key benefits accrued through decades of international human space exploration. US astronaut Mario Runco, Jr. opened the session with a detailed review of NASA's space shuttle program and its many achievements, including satellite deployment, repair and return, earth observations, ISS assembly and life and materials sciences. Runco's presentation was briefly interrupted by a phone call from the crew onboard the International Space Station who greeted the students, staff and fliers in the audience and wished everyone a successful event.

Cady Coleman and Alexander Kaleri, co-chairing the session, followed with a discussion of the ISS assembly sequence, showed a video from their flight onboard ISS and noted the importance of international cooperation in making the ISS program a success. Pam Melroy followed with an overview of her role with the US Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Commercial Spaceflight and the FAA’s engagement with the emerging commercial spaceflight industry. Georgi Grechko closed out the session with a discussion of the benefits and drawbacks of human and robotic space exploration efforts, highlighting some of the results achieved by piloted or tended space platforms, vehicles and systems.

After lunch with Bauman students and staff, the fliers re-assembled for the second technical session of the day. Chaired by ESA astronaut Frank De Winne, the International Space Programs Review session featured presentations by NASA, ESA, CSA, JAXA and Chinese fliers on their agencies’ respective space exploration efforts.

NASA astronaut Mark Polansky opened the session with an overview of US activities in space, reviewing the final flights of the space shuttle and the most recent ISS assembly and crew activities. Frank De Winne described ESA’s operations on board the ISS, European robotics, crew training and rotation, and preliminary planning for long duration flights to the Moon and Mars. CSA’s Chris Hadfield provided an overview of Canadian space activities, noting the particular significance of Canadian satellites for earth observations, remote sensing, weather forecasting and communications. Hadfield also described Canada’s extensive robotics contributions to the International Space Station.

Koichi Wakata followed with a detailed briefing on JAXA’s contributions to the ISS and Japanese activities on orbit, including plans for HTV and HTV-R utilization. Wakata also discussed Japanese remote sensing technologies and described the benefits of such systems for characterization and mitigation of natural disasters, such as the tsunami that struck northeastern Japan in 2011. Chinese taikonaut Fei Junlong followed with a history of Chinese taikonaut crew selection and training, and some insights into China’s plans for 2011 and 2012; Fei noted that near-term plans for China include establishing a permanent presence in low-earth orbit. Dr. Viktor Synyavsky of Energia closed out the afternoon with a discussion of the history, debate, and future potential uses for nuclear power engineering in space.

Wednesday, the fliers spread out over a significant portion of Western Russia to meet with students, teachers and the public during the traditional Community Day activities. Fliers visited schools, universities and institutes in Moscow, Dubna, Kaluga, Vladimir, Rostov, Saratov, St. Petersburg. Ryazan and Gagarin. The companions, meanwhile, enjoyed a day-long excursion to Sergeev Posad, dating from the 15th century and one of the largest Russian monasteries still existing.

Thursday morning, the fliers and spouses enjoyed some time together on a group tour of Moscow and its environs. After lunch at the Torro Grill, the fliers moved to the Moscow Institute for Geodesy and Cartography (Miigaik) for the afternoon technical session Forecasting Natural Disasters Using Space-Based Assets. Chaired by ASE president and Miigaik Rector Viktor Savinykh, the session opened with several cosmonauts recounting their spaceflight experiences for the attending students and staff. Russian Academy of Sciences Academician V.G. Bondur followed with his research into characterizing and forecasting major oceanic events. Japanese astronaut Chiaki Mukai discussed the effectiveness of satellite data for disaster assessment, and noted in particular the usefulness of Japanese remote sensing systems in the response to the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. Mukai also discussed the efficacy of such systems on a global level for earth observations, environmental monitoring, and global health security. Cosmonaut Vladimir Aksyonov presented a philosophical treatise on the need for space exploration and funding to benefit all life on earth, and RAS Academician Anatoli Grigoriev described the work of the Moscow-based Institute for Biomedical Problems and posited the need for organizations, institutions and governments to work together to share data and best practices in the pursuit of sustainable development. Cosmonaut Boris Morukov closed the afternoon with a briefing on the Russian Mars-500 project and its applicability to the study of the medical, psychological and interpersonal implications of long-duration space flight.

That evening, the delegates enjoyed an evening show and banquet at the Ekaterinsky Palace in Moscow, hosted by Roscosmos, Energia and the Russian Armed Forces Cultural Center.

On Friday, the fliers enjoyed a little free time before assembling for the Congress closed Executive Session. ASE-Europe president Dorin Prunariu opened with some words about the United Nations declaration of April 12 as the annual International Day of Human Spaceflight, commemorating the historic flight of Yuri Gagarin, and described the cooperative work between ASE–Europe and the International Space University.  Soichi Noguchi followed with a proposal for the development of an ASE chapter in Asia, which was welcomed by the members and is expected to be formalized at the next Congress. Cady Coleman and Alexander Kaleri read a letter from then-onboard ISS crewmember Ron Garan encouraging ASE support for the Fragile Oasis project, established to share the orbital perspective and to inspire people to share in the responsibility to make life better for everyone with whom we share this fragile oasis we call Earth. As a final administrative task, ballots were distributed for elections to the international Executive Committee as well as for the Best Paper selectee. To close out the session, the members stood for a moment of silence for ASE-USA’s first Executive Director Ted Everts, who passed away this year after a lengthy illness.

Friday evening, the fliers, spouses and guests gathered at the Korolevsky Royal Concert Hall under Moscow’s Ostankino Tower for the Congress Closing Ceremony. Viktor Savinykh welcomed and thanked the delegates for attending the XXIV Plantary Congress and thanked the sponsors and organizing committee for their support. Savinykh announced the election of Belgian astronaut Frank De Winne and the re-election of US astronaut Richard Richards to the international Executive Committee. Savinykh also announced that the Executive Committee had elected cosmonaut Dorin Prunariu to lead the international association as its new president. The Best Paper award was then presented to astronaut Cady Coleman for her briefing on the International Space Station and its role in promoting international cooperation in space. In a final ceremony to commemorate the occasion, Rosemary Roosa – daughter of deceased US astronaut Stu Roosa and on behalf of the Moon Tree Foundation – presented a Moon Tree, grown from seeds her father flew to the moon on Apollo 14, to ASE–Russia.

Declaring the XXIV Planetary Congress officially closed, Savinykh invited the delegates and guests into the banquet hall for the final banquet, accompanied by a traditional Russian cultural dance show.

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