If the word Asgard sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’re either interested in Norse myths or are an avid Marvel and Thor fan. In Norse mythology, Asgard was located in the sky and connected to the “Earthly realm” Midgard via the rainbow bridge Bifrost, was one of Nine Worlds, and a home of gods.
Now the term is being used by the self-proclaimed first space nation, Asgardia. Its website states it strives for peace in space and dreams of uniting all Earthlings, regardless of nation, religion, or any other divisive issues that currently exist on Earth. Moving from Earth to space, it says, will resolve these problems and allow Asgardians to live in harmony.
It also wants to create a new legal framework for exploration in space, and to “protect Earth from space threats” ranging from sun storms and flares to dangers imposed by microorganisms arriving to Earth via meteors and other small celestial bodies by building some sort of a protective shield. And then it eventually wants to create a habitable space platform.
Asgardia wants to convince you that all this is much more than just a drug-induced pipe dream.
First, there’s the pending launch of a real — if tiny – satellite. ASGARDIA-I, the nation’s first satellite, is scheduled to launch in late 2017 (probably September) from Cape Canaveral, piggybacking on a resupply trip to the International Space Station at the end of this year, according to a recent Federal Communications Commission filing. The satellite — a 4-inch-by-4-inch-by 8-inch cube with four deployable solar arrays, weighing just over 6 pounds in all — will constitute the first Asgardian territory in space and carry personal data on hundreds of thousands of Asgardians. The plan is for it to stay in space for five years.
Igor Ashurbeyli, an Azerbaijani-born Russian, space aficionado and founder of the Vienna-based Aerospace International Research Center, calls himself “head of the nation” and is providing the funds to get the satellite project (and the idea of Asgardia) off the ground. The cost hasn’t been disclosed, but a launch for something this size can cost about $40,000 — pocket change for a man who founded a small software company called Socium that has mushroomed into a large holding company.
The nation wants to sell stock in Asgardia AG later this year that would be used to fund ideas and startups in space technology for the benefit of Asgardia.
The Asgardia website says there’s enthusiasm for the idea; some 200,000 people around the world have accepted its Constitution and have become citizens — about equal to the population of Montgomery, Ala., the 115th largest U.S. city. That citizenship — which is free — hasn’t been recognized by any nation on Earth, but Asgardia says the process is “under way”. The space nation is most popular in China (29,000 have become Asgardians), Turkey (27,900) and the U.S. (26,500).
Ashurbeyli aims to establish an independent nation, together with all the trappings: a government, embassies, a flag, a national anthem, membership in the United Nations and so on. There’s even an online campaign to become the first leaders of Asgardia that began June 13.
To me, the entire idea of space nation of scientists, environmentalists and pacifists sounds well-intended, but ultimately far-fetched. There are many hurdles the space nation needs to overcome before it moves from the level of an interesting concept to something much more tangible and relevant. I don’t believe that moving to space will magically solve many of humanity’s issues. What influence Asgardia will one day be able to exert — if any — remains to be seen.