The world’s first ‘virtual nation’ has been launched into space - but is the idea revolutionary, or one man’s crazy vanity project?
What is Asgardia?
The pet project of Russian scientist and billionaire Igor Ashurbeyli, the Space Kingdom of Asgardia is the world’s first ‘virtual nation’.
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Ashurbeyli says he established Asgardia last year, naming it after the home of the Norse gods, to create a “peaceful society”, offer easier access to space technologies, and protect Earth from space threats such as asteroids and man-made debris.
At an official unveiling, Ashurbeyli said he believed the space-bound private ‘country’ could “offer an independent platform free from the constraint of a land-based country’s laws”.
He created his new nation in space so that it falls outside the juristication of Earth governments - although behaviour in space is governed by the Outer Space Treaty, signed by 103 countries including the US and Russia.
Who can become a citizen?
Anyone over the age of 18 with an email address, including ex-convicts, can become citizens. Around 114,000 people from 204 countries have signed up.
In June, voting began to determine the details of Asgardia’s constitution, with only those who agree to the finalised terms counted as official Asgardians.
According to Newsweek, Turkey is the source of the largest number of applicants - more than 16,500.
What was launched last week?
Last week, the Asgardia-1 satellite set off to the International Space Station using Nasa’s commercial Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft. The ‘nanosat’, roughly the size of a loaf of bread, is carrying half a terabyte of data belonging to 18,000 of Asgardia’s citizens and is set to be deployed to low-Earth orbit where it will stay for the next 18 months.
The data includes personal family photos as well as digital representations of the space nation’s flag, coat of arms and constitution.
Longer term, CNN says Asgardia’s team hopes to create habitable platforms in low-earth orbits, the first one located 100 to 200 miles from space, which is also where the ISS is located, and launch manned-test flights within eight years.
Is it officially recognised?
Ashurbeyli hopes to convince the UN to recognise Asgardia as a sovereign nation. That would require a two-thirds majority in the UN Security Council.
Ashurbeyli plans to form a democratic government following parliamentary elections next year. Governmental departments such as a prosecutor’s office and a national audit office will be run by an administrative centre based in Vienna.
The Daily Mail says Asgardia already has its own cryptocurrency, the Solar, which is registered at the European Union Intellectual Property Office.
Dr Ram Jakhu, associate professor at McGill University told the Daily Express: “Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the great Asgardian experiment is its commitment to transnational democracy. The parliamentary elections give everyone a chance to play their role in shaping this new nation.”
Despite its ambitious plans, Asgardia is not currently recognised as a nation, “so for now, the only benefit offered to citizens of the space nation is the ability to upload data to Asgardia-1 in orbit”, says New Scientist.
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