Scientists make plans for ‘Asgardia’– the first nation in space

With a contentious Presidential election currently ongoing in the US and the looming threat of terrorism in all parts of the world, sometimes it might seem as though being a citizen of Earth is highly overrated, but short of discovering a new habitable planet, what are the options?

Well, according to BBC News, you might soon be able to become a citizen of Asgardia, which seeks to become an officially-recognized new pacifist nation in orbit. The unusual project is the brainchild of a Russian scientist and businessman named Dr Igor Ashurbeiyli, who is overseeing the project as head of the Vienna-based Aerospace International Research Center.

The proposed space nation, which was named in honor of the Norse realm home to the Aesir tribe of gods, intends to launch its first satellite in 2017 and is hoping to receive official recognition as a sovereign country by the UN, the British media outlet noted. Nearly 100,000 men and women have reportedly already signed up to be citizens of the new nation.

In a speech earlier this week, Dr. Ashurbeyli called his proposed endeavor “a global, unifying and humanitarian project,” adding that it would be “a fully-fledged and independent nation, and a future member of the United Nations – with all the attributes this status entails: a government and embassies, a flag, a national anthem and insignia, and so on.”

Furthermore, he explained that part of the mission would be to create a country in space so that Earth-based conflicts and wars would not affect it; that it would look to safeguard “the peaceful use of space” and protect the planet below from threats such as sun storms, flares, asteroids and comets; and that it would be “a demilitarized and free scientific base of knowledge in space.”

How feasible is the Asgardia project, and is it even legal?

The catch, Dr. Ashurbeyli explained in an interview with The Guardian, is that the residents of Asgardia would actually still live on Earth. Physically, they would reside in the same countries which they always called home, while being “citizens” of Asgardia at the same time. Once they receive more than 100,000 applicants, they will apply to the UN for state recognition.

The scientist said that he is well aware that the whole thing sounds far-fetched, and according to BBC News, he even joked that he would not be surprised if the media labeled him a “crazy” man who is talking “utter nonsense.” Nonetheless, he remains committed to the project – his company is currently even holding competitions to design a flag and find an official national anthem.

One problem, experts have pointed out, is that international law prohibits claims of sovereignty in space, meaning that it is unlikely that Asgardia would ever be officially recognized by the UN. As London Institute of Space Policy and Law director Professor Sa’id Mosteshar explained to BBC News, the globally-ratified Outer Space Treaty clearly says that “no part of outer space can be appropriated by any state.”

Christopher Newman, an space law expert from the University of Sunderland, said that the plan was “an exciting development in many ways,” he told The Guardian that there were “formidable obstacles in international space law for them to overcome. What they are actually advocating is a complete re-visitation of the current space law framework.”


Image credit: Asgardia