Ambitious plans to launch a ‘space nation’ called Asgardia already appear to be running into very Earth-like problems.
Hatched by an international group of scientists and backed by a Russian billionaire, the floating nation is set to take its first step into space later this year with the launch of its maiden data satellite.
However, the team behind the plan are having difficulties organizing his new country – including how the political system will work and what currency will be used.
The team, led by Dr Igor Ashurbeyli, billionaire and founder of the Aerospace International Research Center in Vienna, unveiled the bizarre plans at a press conference in Paris last October.
Dr Ashurbeyli said at the time he believed the space-bound private ‘country’ could ‘offer an independent platform free from the constraint of a land-based country’s laws.’
However, it seems some more human problems are getting in the way of this vision.
Dr Ashurbeyli told Wall Street Journal the biggest issue is ‘self-organization’.
‘No one has ever tried organising…what is today 100,000 citizens from 200 countries who don’t know each other and live in different places on Earth’, he said.
Future Asgardians speak many different languages and also have different political systems, which could lead to political unrest.
There is also debate as to whether the new nation should accept refugees from Earth.
Out of the 300,000 that initially signed up online, only 110,000 approved the constitution and were granted citizenship.
‘My task is to defend planet Earth and defend humanity’, he said.
Before launching he wants the UN to recognise Asgardia as a country.
Potential inhabitants have raised concerns about the constitution and how power will be shared among the space-dwellers.
Dr Ashurbeyli said it would be a constitutional monarchy similar to those in Europe, with himself as king and a fixed term of five years.
There is also concern about how taxation will work – which according to the constitution is voluntary.
These issues are part of the team’s attempt to form an independent country outside of the legal and physical bounds of our planet.
The nano-satellite will piggy back on a re-supply trip to the ISS in September according to a US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filing in June.
‘The primary payload is a solid state device hard drive,’ Asgardia said in the application.
‘The drive is loaded on the ground with data, and the data is updated once in orbit.
‘A file is returned that verifies successful data transmission.’
The nano-satellite will measure just 4 by 4 by 8 inches (10 by 10 by 20 cm) – roughly the size of a loaf of bread – and weigh about 5 pounds (2.3 kg).
It will come loaded with two particle detectors, mounted internally and externally, to test technologies that are key to the group’s goals.
‘From this data we can map the solar flux, and determine the radiation dosing that the internal electronics are receiving,’ the application said.
The project aims to create a new framework for ownership and nationhood in space by creating a completely new nation, according to the project leaders.
If the nation did come to fruition it would pave the way for off-planet data and tax havens floating in space.
One of the early developments planned by the team will be the creation of a state-of-the-art protective shield for all humankind.
This will protect the world from cosmic threats, both man-made and natural, to life on earth.
This includes space debris, solar flares and asteroid collisions, the researchers say.
There are estimated to be more than 20,000 traceable objects of man-made space junk, including old spacecraft, upper-stage rockets and final stage vehicles in near-Earth orbits.
Natural objects in space also pose a threat to life on the planet.
For example, the Chelyabinsk meteorite, which crashed over a major Russian town in 2013, injured 1,100 people and damaged 4,000 buildings.
‘The project’s concept comprises three parts – philosophical, legal and scientific/technological,’ said Dr Ashurbeyli.
‘Asgardia is a fully-fledged and independent nation, and a future member of the United Nations – with all the attributes this status entails.’
The founder says the essence of Asgardia is Peace in Space, and the prevention of Earth’s conflicts being transferred into space.
‘As low-Earth orbit becomes more accessible, what’s often called the ‘democratisation’ of space, a pathway is opening up to new ideas and approaches from a rich diversity of participants,’ said Professor David Alexander, Director of the Rice Space Institute at Rice University, Houston, Texas.
‘The mission of Asgardia to create opportunities for broader access to space, enabling non-traditional space nations to realise their scientific aspirations is exciting.’
FIRST SPACE NATION
Asgardia will be the first ‘space nation’.
The name comes from the city of the skies ruled by Odin from Valhalla in Norse mythology.
It is described as ‘a fully-fledged and independent nation, and a future member of the United Nations’.
The Asgardia Project Team is made up of experts from around the globe.
The project team is being led by Dr Igor Ashurbeyli, a Russian scientist and founder of the Aerospace International Research Center (AIRC) in Vienna.
By creating a new space nation, the experts behind the project hope to develop future space technology free from the restrictions of state control.
Alongside its announcement, Asgardia opened up applications for virtual citizenship via its website, and so far almost half a million people have pledged their allegiance.
The first Asgardia satellite will launch in September this year.
One of Asgardia’s first projects will be the creation of a protective shield to protect humankind from space debris, including asteroids.