The world has a new nation, sort of. A new nation, yes, but not one that's located anywhere on this world.
It's called the Space Kingdom of Asgardia, the first "space nation," and despite its sci-fi sounding name, it's quite real. Currently, there are around 114,000 citizens of Asgardia (who presently reside in 204 earthbound nations), and they plan to collectively apply for membership to the United Nations as a bonafide nation state sometime in 2018.
You might be wondering: where is this nation? Well, it's in space. Or at least, that's the longview. There's not currently an actual space habitat for Asgardia's citizens to reside in, but the nation did just take a first step in that direction by launching its first satellite, Asgardia-1, reports CNN.
The satellite is more of a symbolic gesture than anything; it's only about the size of a loaf of bread and will remain in orbit for five to 18 months before descending into Earth's atmosphere and burning up. But it contains 0.5 TB of data belonging to 18,000 of the space nation's citizens — including family photographs, digital representations of the space nation's flag, a coat of arms and even a constitution — which fulfills a promise made by Asgardia's founder, Russian scientist Dr. Igor Ashurbeyli, to get the idea off the ground.
That the project was able to buy time on a NASA launch and make it into space at all demonstrates that Asgardia is serious business.
"I promised there would be a launch," said Ashurbeyli. "We selected NASA as a reliable partner ... because we have to meet the commitments that I made 13 months ago."
A place of refuge in the heavens
Asgardia, which is named after the city in the sky from Norse mythology that was home to the gods, was originally founded back in 2016. Its mission is to provide a "peaceful society" that offers easier access to space technologies and serves as a line of defense to protect Earth from space threats, such as asteroids and man-made debris in space. It's also imagined as a place of refuge for those hoping to transcend Earth's many conflicts.
"I really want to be able to see if human beings are able to have more opportunity to express their opinions," said Rayven Sin, an artist based in Hong Kong who signed up to become an Asgardian citizen in November 2016. "The society we live in now — everything seems to be either capitalism or communism — there's a lot of conflict. As a human being, I would hope (to see) if we could have other ways (of living). For a better life, and for more options."
You, too, can become an Asgardian. You must be 18 years old, have an email address, and agree to adopt the finalized constitution. Applications are processed through the nation's website, and you won't be restricted based on gender, nationality, race, religion or financial standing. Even ex-convicts are invited to apply, provided they are clear of charges at the time of application.
Ashurbeyli plans for Asgardia to form a democratic government, as well as a prosecutors office, national audit office and other governmental bodies. The administrative center will be in Vienna — at least until Asgardia can officially take to the sky.
Launching a real home in space is the ultimate goal, of course. Eventually, the Asgardia team hopes to create habitable platforms in low-earth orbits, at a similar altitude to the International Space Station. There will be Asgardia embassies here on Earth for those who wish to remain grounded.
"If I have problems on Earth, I'll have my embassy from Asgardia," said Ashurbeyli. "(It's as if) you are a tourist, you can go to your embassy and they'll try to help you."
It's a grand utopian vision, but also a fascinating experiment. Ashurbeyli has the resources to back the project initially, Asgardia already claims plenty of citizens, and now they also have a physical presence in space thanks to Asgardia-1.
Maybe it's time to take the world's first space nation seriously.