Asgardia, the first off-world country is looking for citizens
If you have had enough with Earth and you’re ready to throw it all away to be a pioneer, Asgardia might be the place for you. Although it has a long, long way to go before it is an actual place, a group of scientists and businesspeople are hoping to create the first off-world country in orbit around the Earth. And it’s looking for citizens.
Named after the mythological Norse world in the sky, Asgardia is a proposed settlement that would orbit the Earth with three primary missions. The first would be to defend the planet from threats from space, notably asteroids, space debris, and anything that would be big enough to potentially crash down to the surface without completely vaporizing.
The second goal would be to create a new nation, free of the entanglements of nations on Earth. Asgardia would write a new set of laws for itself, and eventually become a member of the UN with all the rights and responsibilities of nay member.
The third goal is to create a scientific base of knowledge in space that would be free, and would remain demilitarized. In its own words, it wants to create a “noosphere,” or a sphere of human thought, “creating a mirror of humanity in space but without Earthly division into states, religions and nations. In Asgardia we are all just Earthlings!”
The founders of Asgardia
The fledgling nation is the brainchild of several space experts, including members from Canada, Romania, Russia, and the United States. An exact list of the people behind Asgardia hasn’t been revealed, but Science Alert has confirmed the following players:
- Igor Ashurbeyli– founder of the Aerospace International Research Centre (AIRC) in Russia and the new chairman of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) ‘science of space’ committee.
- David Alexander– director of Rice University’s Space Institute.
- Ram Jakhu – director of the Institute of Air and Space Law at McGill University.
- Joseph N. Pelton– director of the Space and Advanced Communications Research Institute (SACRI) at George Washington University.
- Dumitru-Dorin Prunariu– a Romanian cosmonaut.
The costs of building a nation
The obvious question is where is the money coming from. At the moment, the project is self-funding, thanks to members and supporters with deep pockets. The International Space Station, which for all its innovation is still only big enough for a handful of people at most, cost over $100 billion and took 18 nations to make it operational.
The plan is to begin with a single satellite launch in 2017, partly to get things moving and make the proposal concrete, and partly to coincide with the 60 year anniversary of the launch of Sputnik I. The team presumably has the resources for that, but afterwards it will need to raise hundreds of millions of dollars, possibly billions.
The lookand business of Asgardia
The structure for Asgardia is currently set for three parts: one or several core satellites, clusters of network-centric small satellites, and a protective space platform. The details of how they will do this aren’t yet clear.
“At this point, we’re trying not to give too much technical detail away,” said Timothy Wild, a spokesperson for the consortium. “We have some ideas, but it’s not at the level of understanding to put into the public domain … [W]e’re taking a measured approach. We’re explaining what we want to do now and not jumping the gun on too many details.”
Once the structures are in place, the fledgling country would be able to set up a few unique businesses.
The official website specifically mentions asteroid mining, something the nation would be in the ideal position to do. It could launch mining expeditions from orbit, which would make the costs relatively low – as opposed to any terrestrial competitors. It could also act as a fueling station for any groups looking to save costs – and weight – on launching with fuel for a mission to the moon, Mars, the asteroid belt, or even just a long-term stint in orbit. It could also save companies millions, maybe even billions, on repairing their satellites in orbit.
The legalities of nation building
The other major question is the legality of it all.
At the moment, the country that a mission or object launches from is legally responsible for it. Beyond that, it’s something of a gray area since no one has done it yet.
“The project is creating a new framework for ownership and nationhood in space, which will adapt current outer space laws governing responsibility, private ownership and enterprise so they are fit for purpose in the new era of space exploration,” the organization said.
“By creating a new Space Nation, private enterprise, innovation and the further development of space technology to support humanity will flourish free from the tight restrictions of state control that currently exist.”
Citizens of space
There is also the question of who would live there. Asgardia is currently recruiting experts in fields of science, engineering, and other roles that would help to maintain the space nation, but it’s also looking for regular people.
Asgardia is currently accepting applications on its website. It claimed that its first 100,000 applicants will be granted dual citizenship when Asgardia is operational (and a legally recognized nation), but the site has already received over 350,000 applications. It’s also hosting competitions to design the nation’s flag, insignia, and anthem. Anyone can submit their designs.
“We must leave [Earth] because it’s very much in the nature of humanity,” Ram Jakhu, the director of McGill University’s Institute of Air and Space Law and an Asgardia project founding member, told Business Insider..
“Humanity left Africa and covered the whole globe. The resources of Earth will be depleted. Third, I would say, we have a wish to go where nobody has gone before.”