ASE XXVI Planetary Congress

"Citizens of Space – Stewards of Earth"

July 1-5, 2013
Cologne, Germany


Eighty astronauts and cosmonauts from 17 nations gathered July 1-5, 2013 in Cologne, Germany for the XXVI Planetary Congress of the Association of Space Explorers. Hosted by German astronaut Reinhold Ewald, the theme of the Congress was “Citizens of Space – Stewards of Earth”, reflecting ASE’s belief that the human condition in space is inextricably linked to the human condition on our home planet, Earth.

Monday morning, the fliers and spouses gathered at the University of Cologne for the traditional group photo, followed by the Opening Ceremony of the XXVI Congress with students, faculty and invited guests attending. After a brief musical prelude, Congress host Reinhold Ewald and University of Cologne Rector Dr. Axel Freimuth welcomed the fliers and guests to Cologne. Co-host Prof. Dr. Rupert Gerzer of DLR followed and noted that the goal of exploration is not only to extend the human presence in space, but also to look back and reflect on our impact on Earth. Prof. Hansjorg Dittus, Helmut Dockter and Jurgen Rotters, Mayor of Cologne, all remarked on the value of applying the unique perspectives of the world’s space explorers to the problems of sustainability at the international, national and local levels.

ASE president Dumitru Prunariu then took the podium and after welcoming the fliers and thanking the hosts, he discussed the many benefits of space and life science research, noting that research for life in space is also research for life on Earth. Prunariu then invited the Executive Committee to the stage for the presentation of the ASE Planetary Award, the Crystal Helmet, to Prof. Dr. Heinz Reisenhuber, former Federal Minister for Research & Technology, for his lifelong work on behalf of German and European space research and exploration. Reisenhuber described the development of space science, research and development in Germany and the value of the science generated from the Spacelab missions and the European Columbus space laboratory.  In a surprise message from the International Space Station, astronaut Luca Parmitano sent his videotaped greeting to the Congress and wished the participants all the best for a successful week in Germany.

After the Opening Ceremony, the Executive Committee hosted a press conference while the companions split off for an afternoon at the Schokoladenmuseum and a walking tour of downtown Cologne. Following the press conference, the fliers gathered in the university commons to share lunch with students and faculty.

The Monday afternoon theme session was open to the public and featured a variety of presentations on space research and benefits to life on earth. Rubert Gerzer of the DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine presented experimental data from space with potential applications for new therapeutic concepts; from the University of Cologne, Stephan Hobe discussed the relevance of space law for astronauts; Stephan Schlemmer presented on the theory of life on Earth being seeded from space and Jurgen Stutzki demonstrated the benefits of and technologies behind space and airborne astronomy.  Astronaut Kevin Ford reviewed his recent mission and the technological advances resulting from research onboard the International Space Station, and astronaut Hans Schlegel reviewed the science done on his Spacelab mission and the scientific capabilities of the Columbus laboratory.

The session concluded with a panel discussion among the day’s speakers. In a unique and popular twist, questions were solicited and submitted to the panel via Twitter, providing an opportunity for greater public outreach during the Congress.

That evening, the fliers and spouses reunited for an evening of dinner and music courtesy of Congress sponsor Lanxess atop the LVR Tower in Cologne.

Tuesday morning, the delegates traveled by bus to the University of Aachen and the second day of technical sessions. While the companions enjoyed a guided tour of historic Aachen, the fliers gathered for the International Space Programs review in the main lecture hall at the University. After a warm welcome by Chancellor Manfred Nettekoven, astronaut Soichi Noguchi opened the session, which featured presentations by astronaut Frank De Winne who reported on European astronaut activities in 2012/13, astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, who discussed repair EVA and small satellite release from the ISS, and cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoli Ivanishin who briefed the group on recent Russian EVAs and the new Russian Nauka module, scheduled for launch to the ISS in 2013.

Tuesday afternoon, the fliers and spouses gathered for lunch, regional caucuses and an-all hands General Assembly at the Hotel Quellenhof in Aachen. Later that afternoon, the group departed for Katschhof in the center of Aachen for a public outreach event, featuring presentations from fliers and students set against the backdrop of the Aachen Cathedral. To cap off a brilliant day in Aachen, the fliers and spouses enjoyed a reception sponsored by the Mayor of Aachen and dinner in the Town Hall.

Wednesday, the fliers dispersed throughout Germany for the traditional Community Day activities. Small, mixed teams of astronauts, cosmonauts and taikonauts visited 33 different schools, universities, and centers of science, research and industry in Aachen, Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Bremen, Darmstadt, Dresden, Dortmund, Heidelberg, Kempten, Munich, Saarbreucken, Speyer, and Stuttgart.

Thursday was a long day for the delegates, who traveled to the famous Wasserwerk in Bonn for a joint session with the United Nations on sustainable development and the environment.  Chaired by astronaut Gerhard Thiele and cosmonaut Viktor Savinykh, the session opened with a welcome and remarks by Rupert Gerzer, head of the DLR Institute of Space Medicine, and Jakob Rhyner welcomed the participants on behalf of the United Nations in Bonn.  Mark Doherty of ESA reported on European earth observations and space application projects and Juan Carlos Villegran de Leon from the United Nations followed with a presentation on sustainable development and desired future outcomes for the planet. The session concluded with a panel discussion on global perspectives of space, sustainable development and the environment.

After lunch, the fliers were back at the Wasserwerk for the afternoon session, co-hosted with the DLR Space Administration. Chaired by astronauts Ulrich Walter and Bonnie Dunbar, the session featured presentations by Gerhard Gruppe from DLR on the German and European approach to space and innovation, Rolf Densing, head of DLR Space Programs who expounded on the benefits of international cooperation as a key to the future of human spaceflight, and Bert Reigen of Astrium, who provided an industry view on space and exploration in the post-ISS era.

The second part of the afternoon session provided an overview of commercial space efforts in the United States. Astronaut Pam Melroy discussed the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability and gave an overview of some of the commercial space launch vehicles under development, astronaut Jim Voss presented Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser vehicle, and Bonnie Dunbar presented the initial results of efforts to increase commercial utilization of the International Space Station.  Thursday concluded with a cruise on the river Rhine back to Cologne, with sweeping views of the NSW countryside and a preview of Castle Drachenburg to accompany the lively entertainment and dinner.

Friday morning, the fliers and companions traveled to the nearby European Astronaut Centre in Cologne for the opening of the DLR enviHab and guided tours of the European Astronaut Centre training facilities. A second and final General Assembly was held at EAC, where the fliers voted into force several changes to the international ASE charter, welcomed Christer Fuglesang (Sweden), Sheikh Muszaphar (Malaysia) and Oleg Novitski (Russia) as new members of the Executive Committee, and approved future Congresses in China and Sweden.

The fliers and companions spent the afternoon at leisure or on guided tours of the Cologne Cathedral, before departing for the Closing Ceremony and banquet at the nearby Drachenburg Castle. During the evening’s festivities the Executive Committee thanked the XXVI Congress hosts and awarded Leonov Medallions to Reinhold Ewald for his contributions to ASE and the XXVI Congress and to Rupert Gerzer for his outstanding contributions to a better understanding of the human condition in space. The Executive Committee also awarded Pam Melroy the Perchatka for the best technical presentation of the XXVI Congress.

ASE extends its gratitude to Reinhold Ewald and Rupert Gerzer at DLR for organizing and hosting the XXVI Congress, to the cities of Cologne, Aachen and Bonn for their warm welcome, and to the crew at Niedermeier+ for their excellent work in bringing it all together to a successful conclusion.

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