8 October 2010. The Association of Space Explorers (ASE) began its XXIII Planetary Congress on 5 October in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. ESPI Resident Fellow Gerhard Thiele chaired the session “Human Space Exploration - Enhancing Global Identity?”. 


The XXIII Planetary Congress of the Association of Space Explorers was opened on Tuesday, 5 October 2010 by Dr. Sheikh Muszaphar, the first Malaysian citizen to fly into space. Directly after the opening of the Congress which was entitled “One Planet, One Hope, One Future” ESPI Resident Fellow Gerhard Thiele chaired the panel “Human Space Exploration – Enhancing Global Identity?” Following previous work at ESPI on the roots of human space exploration as perceived in the various parts of the world the theme of the roundtable at the XXIII Planetary Congress attempted to look at the question if and how human space exploration can help advancing a global identity. The panel consisted of highly distinguished space explorers around the world: Alexei Leonov, the first human to perform an extra-vehicular activity, opened the roundtable with a look back at the early days of the space age. Russell Schweickart, like Leonov one of the founding members for the ASE, provided the perspective from the pioneering Apollo days. Yang Liwei, who was the first Chinese in space gave insight into human exploration as seen in the Chinese culture. Other panelists included Sergey Avdeyev from Russia, who had already participated in the previous workshop in Vienna, Rakesh Sharma from India, Chiaki Mukai from Japan, Chris Hadfield from Canada and Franz Viehböck from Europe. While the panelists pointed out different aspects regarding the motivation or reception of human spaceflight in the different parts of our world it became apparent that the uniting factors appear to be prominent if not overwhelming. One could very well describe this trans-cultural quest for the unknown with the phrase “Unity in Diversity”. Dorin Prunariu, who is currently the Chairman of UNCOPUOS, closed out the panel by summarising aspects of the discussion from a truly global perspective.

It is foreseen to follow-up this roundtable in more detail at the next ASE Congress, which will be held in April 2011 in Moscow to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the flight of Yuri Gagarin. ESPI will furthermore bring in new aspects from this roundtable in its upcoming activities on human exploration in the humanities and social sciences. 

ESPI Resident Fellow Gerhard Thiele addressing the audience

Alexei Leonov addressing the congress during our session 

From left: Sheikh Muszaphar (Malaysia), ESPI Resident Fellow Gerhard Thiele (Europe), Rakesh Sharma (India), Alexei Leonov (Russia), Russell Schweickart (USA), Dimitrij Prunariu (Romania and UNCOPUOS), Sergey Avdeyev (Russia), Franz Viehböck (Europe), (Interpreter for Mr. Yang Liwei) Chiaki Mukai (Japan), Chris Hadfield (Canada), Yang Liwei (China)

Gerhard Thiele (left) with Rakesh Sharma




Association of Space Explorers (ASE)

photo credits: ESPI, ASE

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