Asgardia: The Space Nation Now Accepting Citizenship Applications
Elon Musk is trying to get to Mars, Japan wants to build a space elevator, and now a Russian billionaire wants to start a nation in low-earth orbit. Named after the Norse city in the sky, Asgardia dreams to be a utopian nation floating around Earth, where science and technology can flourish without being inhibited by the mundane goings-on down below.
Igor Ashurbeyli, an aerospace engineer from Azerbaijan, proposed the creation of Asgardia and quickly gained a following. Now, with nearly 200,000 “citizens,” he’s hoping to be accepted by the U.N. as a recognized nation in the world – the 173rd largest at time of writing.
Recently, Ashurbeyli partnered with NASA to successfully launch a satellite into orbit called the Asgardia-1. But the satellite was a small step in accomplishing the lofty goal of building habitable platforms for Asgardians at some point in the future.
Asgardia-1 is roughly the size of a loaf of bread, containing half a terabyte of pictures, names, the Asgardian constitution, and a coat of arms. It will orbit for about a year, before falling back to Earth and burning up in the atmosphere.
Becoming a citizen of Asgardia is easy, one need only submit their email address, agree to some basic terms and conditions, and build a profile. At the time of writing this, Asgardia boasts 186,530 denizens, with the majority of the populace coming from the U.S. — Turkey is a close second.
The nation is currently in the midst of its parliamentary elections on its website, Asgardia.space. There are 112 candidates vying for one of 150 seats in the conceptual nation’s legislative body. These candidates will represent 13 districts based on the most widely spoken languages of its citizens thus far. Prospective MPs don’t need to reside in the native country of the language they wish to represent, they just need to be fluent in that language – Asgardia is a borderless nation after all.
Asgardia’s citizenship has fluctuated, with initial interest numbering somewhere around half a million. That number dropped to around 114,000 last summer, but has picked up since. Citizenship simply requires one to be over the age of 18 and not have any outstanding felony convictions.
A Space Nation’s Historical Precedent
Asgardia refers to itself as a future U.N. member, though it may face some difficulty being recognized by the world’s nations. A similar space nation was proposed in 1949 by an American named James Mangan, called the Nation of Celestial Space.
Unlike Asgardia’s modest attempt to create a putative nation of orbiting satellites, Mangan’s Nation of Celestial Space, or Celestia, tried to stake the bold claim of the entirety of outer space. Needless to say, his concept failed.
But before his attempt to represent the infinite, vast expanse beyond Earth met its demise, Mangan went so far as to mint coins, design a flag, and propose a set of rules and intentions for his vast territory. The flag depicted a blue background with a white ‘#’ – the editor’s symbol for space.
Celestia’s goal was to prevent Earth’s hegemonic struggle from spilling into the cosmos, similar to Asgardia’s anti-nationalist sentiment.
He even convinced the state attorney general of Illinois that his goal was altruistic, leading to a charter for Celestia in the state’s record.
Mangan proposed legislation to make it illegal for other nations to trespass in space via rockets and satellites. He also wanted to sell Earth-sized plots of space for a dollar, so that anyone who “owned” that much space would recognize the futility and absurdity of war.
In the end, it turned out that Celestia may have been more of a self-aggrandizing marketing ploy for Mangan, rather than a genuine attempt at what Asgardia says it aims to achieve.
Asgardia Projects and Missions
Asgardia promises to be a hub for scientists and researchers to develop future space technologies, uninhibited by commercial or military influence.
It says it will be impartial in Earthly matters and affairs – something like an ethereal Switzerland. Though in much the same way people take advantage of Switzerland’s neutrality on Earth, some foresee Asgardia as being another possible tax haven for the wealthy.
But if its ostensible purpose is to be unaffiliated and detached from worldly politics and international disputes, it would seem Asgardia might stay away from tax loopholes, if it even had the option.
Another part of the Asgardian manifesto is that it will aim to protect Earth from space threats. It plans to monitor and collect space debris from satellites and rockets currently floating around Earth; track solar flares, CMEs, and cosmic radiation; monitor asteroids, comets and meteorites that may pose threats; and finally, defend against microorganisms hitching a ride on small celestial bodies that may pose biological threats to humanity.
These noble tasks sound like they would require significant resources to defend against, but if someone is willing to do it, or at least try, maybe we should let them.
The colonization of space and space exploration has seen surges in public interest through the achievements of privatized programs like SpaceX. It won’t be surprising if we continue to see support for space missions that increasingly focus on including the public and making space attainable for the average citizen.
The question is whether Asgardia’s idealistic goal of creating an all-inclusive, neutral nation, without the influence of international politics and corporate interests is readily attainable. The optimist in us would like to think so.