Last year, some 200,000 people decided they don't want to live on this planet anymore, and registered to be citizens of the first "space nation," Asgardia. In the unlikely event that it ever gets off the ground, the extremely-ambitious project would see a system of satellites orbiting the Earth, carrying a country's worth of people. Now the self-appointed Head of Nation has outlined plans to launch the first of these satellites.
Since the call for would-be citizens was first put out in October, some 500,000 registrations were apparently received. As you'd expect from the kind of internet democracy responsible for Boaty McBoatface, the project was flooded with applications from bots and jokesters, and registrations were shut down and reopened with stricter protocols. Asgardia now boasts some 200,000 "serious" applicants, but it doesn't exactly bode well for a project where literally everything can go wrong.
At a press conference, Dr. Igor Ashurbeyli, the scientist leading the project, declared June 18 to be Asgardian National Unity Day. Along with kicking off a shiny new calendar from Day 01, residents will begin voting to approve the country's constitution, flag, coat of arms, and national anthem. That constitution has reportedly been in development for the last six months, and its creators say it mixes and matches certain aspects from other countries.
As the founding father and primary funder of the project, Ashurbeyli has declared himself Asgardia's Head of Nation for the first five years, until a proper parliament is elected by its space citizens.
While the satellite array is eventually expected to be big enough to house millions of Asgardians, the first step is a small one. Literally. It's a CubeSat measuring 10 x 10 x 20 cm (3.9 x 3.9 x 7.9 in) and weighing just 2.8 kg (6.2 lb). This foundational satellite, dubbed Asgardia-1, will carry just a tiny amount of data for each early adopter, in the form of their names and photos. The first 100,000 people to sign up can send 300 KB into space, while the next 400,000 get 200 KB, and a further million are granted 100 KB.
"Last year in Paris, when we launched Asgardia, many people were skeptical that we would ever put anything in space," says Ashurkeyli. "But I can confidently announce today, that we will be launching a space satellite, Asgardia-1. Asgardia-1 is our first, small step which we hope will lead to a giant leap forward for mankind. It will be our foundation stone, from which we will look to create a network of satellites that will help protect our planet against asteroids, solar flares, man-made space debris, and other space hazards."
Although it may read like a scheme cooked up by a Bond villain, Ashurbeyli clearly wants to be taken seriously. But there are plenty of questions standing in the way of that right now. First and foremost is gravity: those concept images show a 70s sci-fi-style paradise, complete with people just walking around. That could use some explaining – as could how the satellites will help protect the planet. And if that's not enough to pull the project apart at the seams, the gender imbalance surely will: only 17 percent of applicants so far are women.
Asgardia-1 is due for launch in August, and after that, the next hurdle (on a road that's currently more hurdle than road) will be official recognition by the United Nations. Ashurbeyli is confident this will happen in early 2018, although we'd not be too surprised if that little CubeSat ends up being the only part of Asgardia that ever gets off the ground.
You can watch the press conference in the video below (it kicks off around the 1 hour 30 min mark), and if you feel like registering as a resident, even just to be sent a certificate, check out the source link.