In what sounds like a backstory for a sci-fi B-movie, a team from the Aerospace International Research Center (AIRC) has announced plans for Asgardia, a "space nation" satellite that will operate as its own country, independent of any Earthly nation state. At a press conference in Paris this week, project leader Dr Igor Ashurbeyli outlined the philosophical, legal and scientific goals and issues of Asgardia, as well as put out a call for Earthlings to apply to be its first citizens, and help design its flag and other national symbols.
Fans of Norse mythology (or Marvel movies) will recognize the name Asgardia as stemming from the city in the skies ruled by Odin. According to Ashurbeyli, it was chosen to represent the unifying philosophy behind the project.
"It is the realization of man's eternal dream to leave his cradle on Earth and expand into the Universe," Ashurbeyli explains. "Asgardia's philosophical envelope is to 'digitalize' the Noosphere, creating a mirror of humanity in space but without Earthly division into states, religions and nations. In Asgardia we are all just Earthlings!"
The never-ending tangle of international politics is enough to make anyone want to jump ship, so one of Asgardia's core ideals is to be (literally) above all that, with Ashurbeyli stating that the space nation won't involve itself in the petty squabbles between Earth states. That said, they do want to be recognized as a member of the UN, which sounds like a classic have your cake and eat it scenario.
To keep Earthly conflicts on Earth, Ashurbeyli explains that space law needs a refresher, and the project aims to develop a new legal platform for how countries and companies can explore, mine and research in space, with a focus on building a free, open-access base of knowledge to help less developed countries get off the ground.
The website even goes as far as to say that "Asgardia will demonstrate to scientists throughout the world that independent, private and unrestricted research is possible," which sounds like the perfect setup for a classic dystopian "experiment gone horribly wrong" sci-fi story. Less disturbing science priorities include detecting and protecting Earth from incoming space threats like asteroids, cosmic radiation and solar flares.
According to Ashurbeyli, the space nation itself is expected to take the form of one or more core satellites, along with clusters of smaller network-centric ones and a protective space platform. If that vague description doesn't tame your curiosity for how exactly Asgardia is going to work, unfortunately that's all the information the team has thrown out there so far – but they promise it's not because they have no idea.
"It is because we want the widest participation in this open project – participation from all interested scientists and companies, without limiting them by our own vision of the technological side of things at the moment," says Ashurbeyli.
The public is invited to participate as well, and those who are interested in becoming the first citizens of space (in the event it ever gets off the ground) can apply on the Asgardia website, with the first 100,000 applicants given special preference. Artistic future-Asgardians are also being asked to help design the space nation's flag, insignia and anthem.
Of course, there's a lot of asterisks to this story, but the team is confident enough to say that the first satellite will be launched as early as next year.
If nothing else, there's points to be awarded for ambition here.