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On the Occasion of the End of the 18th Congress of the Association of Space Explorers

By Mamoru Mohri, Astronaut & Director of the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation

The 18th Congress of the Association of Space Explorers, the first to take place in Japan, has ended successfully. I would like to express my sincere thanks to the senior astronauts and cosmonauts who went out of their way to come to Japan, the participating general public, the speakers, the supporting staff and sponsors, and the media who reported on the congress.

The congress has been hosted by the Association of Space Explorers (ASE), which came into being when Russell L. Schweickart of the United States and Alexei Leonov of the former Soviet Union met. Hosting the congress is one of the association's main activities, and the number of participating countries and astronauts has been rising steadily since the first congress took place in France in 1985.

One of the things that impressed me throughout the congressional sessions was the fact that the participating astronauts and cosmonauts were enjoying renewing old friendships. The media reports might have given the general public the impression that strengthening exchanges among astronauts and cosmonauts from around the world was the only purpose of the congress. But considering the historical confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union, it can be said that the renewal of old friendships was in itself of enough significance. As a matter of fact, the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), or the Star Wars strategy to intercept missiles in space, announced by U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 1983, served as the catalyst for the establishment of the ASE. It can be argued that the sense of crisis at the prospect that space would become a battlefield led to the formation of this congress.

We received the great news that China had succeeded in its manned flight during a congressional session. We congratulated China on its successful mission, and were pleased that another man had joined the ranks of space explorers, saying "The Chinese astronaut must join us at the congress next year!" I personally hope that he will participate in the congress on a different basis than international conflict or national prestige.

Having said that, our mission on the ground as astronauts with actual flight experience is about more than just getting together and exchanging stories; it is about exploring practical ways to contribute to space development and to raise environmental awareness, and to put these things into practice. This, I believe, is the mission that has been assigned to us not by any institution or country but by the entire human race.

Sixty-five astronauts and cosmonauts from fifteen countries, including nine Japanese, participated in the 18th Congress of the Association of Space Explorers.

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