V Congress of the Association of Space Explorers
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
November 11-15, 1989

Theme: "Space for Earth"
Crystal Helmet Award: Yash Pal
Host: HRH Prince Sultan bin Salman Abdulaziz


In the largest such gathering in history, fifty astronauts and cosmonauts from twelve countries gathered in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for the Fifth Annual Planetary Congress hosted by HRH Prince Sultan bin Salman al-Saud. During the week long event the members re-established acquaintances, strengthened professional bonds and called on all spacefaring nations to cooperate in the areas of space rescue and the use of space for the benefit of Earth.

On the opening day the participants heard updates on national space program exploration activities. Robert Overmyer reported on each of the US shuttle flights since the previous Congress and Sergei Krikalev briefed the group on the joint Soviet-French flight, the end of the year-long MIR flight, his departure from MIR, the flight of Valeri Polyakov and Vladimir Volkov in the Spring and the planned launch of the next MIR module.

The topic of the second day revolved around the theme "Space for Earth". In his keynote address, Crystal Helmet awardee Yash Pal of India, known for his design of a satellite network to serve rural Indian villages, stated that many tangible benefits of space, including global and regional communications and the acquisition of meteorological data were already benefiting a large number of people on Earth. He suggested that space exploration and development had begun and would continue to bring new ideas and generate new myths. Human behavior, he said, including aggression and divisiveness, can be modified by the space experience over time. Dr. Pal concluded by comparing the Earth to a patient in need of a complete examination to understand what is happening to it, and suggested that space technologies can contribute to that understanding. He proposed a World Institute for Space to investigate and correlate phenomena and technological development and apply space-derived benefits for all humanity.

Charlie Walker (US) followed the keynote address with a presentation on materials and physical processes and their applications to life on Earth. Biomedical process and substance research, he said, shows great promise for new, improved medicines and treatments on earth. Research into electrokinesis, phase separation of materials,protein crystallization, low-gravity animal and plant gestation and growth, physiological processes in weightlessness, metallurgy, semi- and superconducting, thin-film coatings, optical glasses, polymers and catalysts is all proceeding apace with yet untold benefits for humanity. The laboratory of space, he concluded, is only limited by the human imagination and the will to apply the knowledge gained there.

Viktor Savinykh (USSR) followed with a discussion of work performed and planned in the field of remote sensing and cartography. Savinykh suggested that space provides unequalled potential for observation of Earth's land, sea and air. Earth observation and data-gathering from space have enhanced agricultural processes, water management, land reclamation, forestry and transportation, and greatly contributed to environmental preservation. Savinykh said that mapping and the study of planetary phenomena are also applicable to other bodies in the solar system. Exploitation of these capabilities, he concluded, will only happen with educated and skilled operators and the global dissemination of new knowledge.

The members discussed the need for improved international networking of unmanned orbital observation platforms as well as the role of human optical monitoring of the environment from space, the benefits of accessing lunar and asteroidal materials, and the relatively low level of public appreciation of the benefits derived from space research and development. The members shared the view that their first-hand observations of the Earth's environment and its visible degradation had enhanced their awareness of our planet as a single entity, the only home we have, in need of a common human effort to preserve it.

The third day of the Congress was devoted to the topic of space rescue. In the all-day session co-chaired by John-David Bartoe (US) and Alexander Alexandrov (Bulgaria), seven speakers shared their solutions to the challenges involved in implementing an international space rescue system. The session, the first in which outside experts were called in to give papers at an ASE Congress, resulted in the Statement on Universal Space Rescue .

The fourth day of the Congress was the designated Community Day, as members spoke on topics in their fields of expertise at dozens of educational institutions from elementary to university level in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dharan. In the late afternoon, Rusty Schweickart (US), Alexei Leonov (USSR), Ulf Merbold (FRG), Georgi Ivanov (Bulgaria), Sultan al-Saud (Saudi Arabia), Yash Pal and guest author Arthur C. Clarke participated in a live, two-way teleconference discussion with reporters and science writers in Washington, New York and Atlanta.

At the spectacular multi-media Award Ceremony that evening, the ASE presented its Annual Planetary Award to Yash Pal and also issued a special recognition award to Arthur C. Clarke. Clarke, who earlier in the Congress had dazzled the members with a slide show and film of a colorful journey into the computer-generated graphic depths of the Mandelbot set fractal, commented that he felt this award to be a greater honor than the Nobel Prize. Rusty Schweickart, who stepped down from the executive committee after the Congress was presented a teak microcomputer diskette box with an engraved brass plaque honoring his years of service and dedication to the ASE.

In addition to the work completed on space rescue, the Congress approved the nominations of new executive committee members John Fabian (US), Ernst Messerschmid (FRG) and Bertalan Farkas (Hungary). The members also expressed their desire to develop an ASE database containing member information and photographic images from space. The ASE also welcomed into its ranks Joe Allen (US), Don Lind (US), Jon McBride (US), James van Hoften (US) Viktor Gorbatko (USSR), Sergei Krikalev (USSR), Musa Manarov (USSR), Valeri Ryumin (USSR), Viktor Savinykh (USSR), Vladimir Shatalov (USSR), Vladimir Titov (USSR), Alexander Volkov (USSR), Reinhard Furrer (FRG) and Rakesh Sharma (India).

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