[DIGEST: IFL Science, New Atlas, Science Alert, The Guardian, Space.com]
Disgruntled nationals looking to escape their native countries may soon have a new option: space.
More than 500,000 people have submitted “citizenship applications” for the Official Space Kingdom of Asgardia, a theoretical orbital space station and moon colony with its own government, constitution, and calendar, including holidays such as Asgardian National Unity Day and “Year Day.”
Though the concept of Asgardia was announced in late 2016 by Russian scientist Dr. Igor Ashurbeyli, Asgardia’s self-appointed head of state, the idea gained further legitimacy at a June 13 press conference in Hong Kong when Ashurbeyli announced plans to deploy Asgardia’s first satellite, Asgardia-1, this September.
The Asgardia-1, essentially a floating hard drive, measures about 3.9-by-7.9-by-7.9 inches — about the size of a loaf of bread. The first 100,000 confirmed citizens of Asgardia will supposedly be able to upload 300 KB of data to the satellite, while the next 400,000 will receive 200 KB, and another million will be allowed 100 KB.
Houston, Texas-based company NanoRacks is responsible for launching the device — a type of nanosatellite known as a CubeSat — to the International Space Station, from which it will deploy into orbit approximately 310 miles above Earth.
“Asgardia-1 will contain data stored for free for up to 1.5 million Asgardians,” said Ashurbeyli in a statement. “These are historic days, and your names and data will forever stay in the memory of the new space humanity, as they will be reinstalled on every new Asgardia satellite we launch.”
At the press conference, Ashurbeyli also released elaborate illustrations of the proposed multi-level space station, which have been described by various media outlets as both a
clone of NASA’s proposed Stanford Torus — a beloved space-colony prototype designed to hold up to 140,000 residents — and a groovy “’70s sci-fi paradise.”
“We plan to have this station in space and on the moon," Ashurbeyli explained during the conference. "It will be a four-level orbital station. I think the technical details will be defined by the Ministry of Science, which I hope we will have in the autumn of this year."
We plan on having an orbital station in space and on the Moon #Asgardia https://t.co/cJpJl57xSI— Asgardia (@Asgardia) 1497343010.0
Asgardia is being funded by Ashurbeyli’s nonprofit Aerospace International Research Center (AIRC) in Vienna, Austria; Ashurbeyli says he hopes the nation will someday be built by citizen volunteers and eventually become self-funding.
To become a citizen of Asgardia, one simply needs to fill out an online application. (Of the original 500,000 applicants, 200,000 have been approved from almost every country on earth — 80 percent of them men between the ages of 18 and 35, most of them from China.) Once approved, “residents” will be able to vote on the country's constitution, flag, coat of arms, and national anthem, as well as elect a full parliament.
Despite the logistical, financial and legal ramifications of founding a new nation in uncharted territory, Ashurbeyli remains highly optimistic about the ramifications of the impending satellite launch: "Sixty years after the launch of the first-ever artificial satellite, Sputnik, our own space satellite, Asgardia-1, will mark the beginning of a new space era, taking our citizens into space — in virtual form, at first.”