JAPANESE astronaut Mamoru Mohri, who flew on the space shuttle Endeavor last week, has joined a unique fellowship: the company of men and women who have crossed the threshold of outer space.
Thanks to the American and Russian guest cosmonaut and space partnership programs, there now are enough of them to have their own professional society - the Association of Space Explorers, with headquarters in San Francisco. They represent some two dozen nationalities and a diversity of cultures. They have undergone the experience of seeing Earth in a cosmic perspective that emphasizes the essential unity of its people.
"I cannot forget our motto `Only One Earth the guiding principle of the Association of Space Explorers," Polish cosmonaut M. Hermaszewski told the audience of a symposium the association held during the recent World Space Congress here. American astronaut Charles Bolden explained that, when you look at "the blue marble" from a spaceship, you realize that our planet is "a very small fragile body in the cosmic universe."
This realization has given association members a new sense of purpose. American astronaut Frederick Hauck, who chaired the symposium, explained that they are dedicated to stewardship of the environment, encouraging spaceflight as a cooperative world endeavor, and educating the public. As French astronaut Jean-Loup Cretien put it: "We hope to give impetus to cooperative space exploration - to exploit ... the best in each other."
One area where cooperation and planetary stewardship come together is in monitoring Earth from orbit. Hungarian cosmonaut Bertalan Farkas says this "has emerged as one of the most important" space efforts. He explains: "It's a science where we must work with other countries.... None of us can work in a vacuum."