FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                     October 29, 2019

The Association of Space Explorers 32nd Planetary Congress
marked the largest gathering of international astronauts in history
Annual international event made first return to the U.S. since 2008
and honored Apollo 50th anniversary  

HOUSTON – More than 120 astronaut and cosmonauts from around the world recently gathered in Houston, Texas, for the Association of Space Explorers (ASE) XXXII Annual Planetary Congress. The event, which took place October 14-18, marked the largest gathering of international astronauts in history.

This year’s Congress was themed “Celebrating Apollo - Inspiring the Future” in honor of the historic Moon landings in 1969. Through technical sessions and community events, the delegates shared with the public the accomplishments and the inspiration of space exploration over the last five decades, as told through their personal flight experiences, while also shedding light on future space exploration opportunities as well as science and engineering challenges.

“The United States holds the distinction of being the first nation to land a human on the Moon fifty years ago, therefore, for the 2019 Congress, it was logical for the ASE to return to the place where it all began,” said Professor Bonnie J. Dunbar, Ph.D., retired astronaut, professor of aerospace engineering at Texas A&M University and ASE XXXII Planetary Congress chair.

Technical sessions took place throughout the week on topics such as future plans for low-Earth orbit, exploration back to the Moon and on to Mars, future space suit development, research required to maintain astronaut health and more. All of the technical sessions were open to the public either in-person or via livestream directly from venues including Space Center Houston, Rice University’s Baker Institute of Public Policy and NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Technical sessions are available for replay at:

On October 16, delegates continued their tradition of dedicating one day – “Community Day” – of the Congress to visiting schools, universities and communities in the host country. They made community visits to College Station, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Houston, Galveston, Midland and the Rio Grande Valley. During the visits, ASE astronauts shared their knowledge, experiences and passion for space exploration in hopes of inspiring the next generation of scientists, astronauts and engineers. The 2019 Community Day reached more than 50,000 people across the state of Texas.

“Science, technology, engineering and mathematics are at the heart of human progress and exploration – as well as instrumental to maintaining our quality of life” Dunbar said. “We have a responsibility to communicate that to today’s youth and, hopefully, to inspire them to carry the torch into the future. It was a very rewarding experience for our members to travel across Texas in order to share our personal spaceflight stories, but also to answer questions about living and working in space, and to discuss our nation’s return to the Moon and venturing on to Mars. In the process, we discovered a new generation as excited about future space exploration as were our members when we first contemplated becoming pilots, engineers and scientists, a path which led us into becoming astronauts.  I believe that we succeeded in demonstrating that none of this would be possible without undaunted curiosity and a foundation in STEM related careers”. 

On October 17, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) served as host of the ASE Annual Awards Ceremony and was sponsored by the Saudi Space Commission, Aramco Services and Tellurian. The Crystal Helmet was presented posthumously to Dr. Christopher Kraft, Jr. and the Leonov Medallion was presented to Texas A&M University Chancellor John S. Sharp.

The XXXII Planetary Congress title sponsor was the Texas A&M University System and marked the return of the annual event to the U.S. for the first time since 2008. In all, the U.S. has hosted the Congress four times since 1985. The 2020 event will take place in Budapest, Hungary and the 2021 Congress will be held in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Members of ASE represent 38 nations who have flown astronauts and cosmonauts into space, including five major ISS space agencies: NASA (US), Russian Space Agency (RSA), European Space Agency (ESA), Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). Delegates who attended and provided public programs included astronauts who flew during Apollo, Skylab, Space Shuttle, MIR Space Station and the International Space Station programs.

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About the Association of Space Explorers
The Association of Space Explorers (ASE) is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)(3) professional and educational organization of more than 400 flown astronauts and cosmonauts from 38 nations. ASE’s mission is to provide a forum for professional dialogue among individuals who have flown in space; to communicate the benefits of space science and exploration to the public; to promote education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); to inspire all students; to foster environmental awareness and geographical literacy through such programs as “Windows on the Earth”; and to encourage international cooperation in the exploration of space.

About the ASE XXXII Planetary Congress
Flown astronaut/cosmonaut delegates from all over the world gathered in Houston, Texas, for the XXXII Planetary Congress to honor the accomplishments in space exploration over the last five decades, shared with the public the science and engineering achievements generated by space exploration, and provided a vision for the future as we journey back to the Moon and on to Mars.

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