Each year, members of ASE gather to exchange professional information and ideas and approve programs of the Association. In 1991, the members convened in Berlin, Germany from September 30 to October 5, during the first anniversary of German reunification. Hosted by Reinhard Furrer, the Congress drew a record 57 astronauts from ten nations. The Congress theme was "Space Has No Boundaries."
The Congress agenda included an update session on recent activities of the national space programs, a theme day, a speakers' day, and sessions devoted to the general business of the organization. On the opening morning after welcomes and introductions, the group paid a memorial tribute to deceased astronauts Jim Irwin, Sonny Carter and Vasily Lazarev.
ASE member Tom Stafford began the space program update session, chaired by Wubbo Ockels, with a report on the work of the U.S. Synthesis Group. Musa Manarov followed with an account of Soviet space program activities for the past year. Dick Richards presented an overview of U.S. shuttle flights for the year. John Blaha then discussed and showed a film of his STS 43 mission. Pete Conrad described U.S. efforts to develop a single-stage-to-orbit spacecraft. Patrick Baudry presented information about European space efforts, in particular the Hermes program.
Ernst Messerschmid chaired the morning session of the theme day, introducing former Soviet Ambassador Rostislov Sergeev to present award winner and keynoter German Foreign Minister Hans Dietrich Genscher. Sergeev introduced Genscher on behalf of his colleague former Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze. Genscher, deviating from his prepared notes, spoke eloquently on the benefits of space technology to peace and democracy, environmental protection, biomedical technology and the development of new materials. He concluded with an exhortation that science and technology, which have given us the capability to destroy ourselves, must rather serve humanity and preserve the quality of life on Earth. This responsibility unites us, he said. The executive committee then presented Mr. Genscher with ASE's Crystal Helmet award along with a watch that had been aboard the MIR station. Reinhard Furrer concluded with his own comments, explaining the symbolism of the Congress logo (the shaking of the Brandenburg Gate) as the collapse of what had divided two social systems. In the afternoon, Pete Conrad spoke on the budgetary and political challenges facing the space program, and Joe Allen offered his reflections on some of the new perceptions astronauts have brought home from space. Boris Yegorov concluded the session with a report on some of the biomedical developments stemming from space exploration.
To encapsulate their common perspectives on the direction of future space exploration, the members prepared and released a General Congress Statement. The document endorses a program that leads to a permanent human presence on the moon, with the final destination being the planet Mars. The statement reflects the members' belief that cooperation and teamwork will be the most effective forms of international working relationships to accomplish this mission of unprecedented magnitude and complexity. The members recommended a spirit and a direction for human exploration of the solar system, rather than endorsing any particular set of hardware or specific mission architecture.
Among other matters, the members approved a series of amendments to the ASE charter and accepted by unanimous acclaim all new members not present. The group re-elected John Fabian and elected Igor Volk to the executive committee, and voted to name Alexei Leonov and Rusty Schweickart as honorary ex-officio committee members.
Among the sponsors of the Congress were the Berlin Senate, the German Aerospace Industry Association DARA, the Free University of Berlin, the Hotel Esplanade, and the Axel Springer Publishing House. In Berlin the members visited the Schoneberg Town Hall and attended a concert by the London Mozart Players at the Schauspielhaus concert hall in the eastern part of the city. The group also visited the Cecilienhof Palace, where the Potsdam Conference took place, and Potsdam's Telegrafenberg, the current home of the Central Institute of Terrestrial Physics and an early center of German astronomical and geodesic research. A visit to Dresden on the first anniversary of German reunification highlighted the Congress cultural program.