Asgardia, the first ‘space kingdom,’ now has a flag, a constitution and now, its first satellite — a shoebox-sized box awaiting release into orbit from the International Space Station.
What the huh? Technically, Asgardia-1 is a scientific experiment designed to measure the effects of space radiation on hard drives. Billionaire Igor Ashurbeyli, paid the Texas-based NanoRacks to launch it on November 12.
Exploration historian Michael Robinson from the University of Hartford says,
“People used to make territorial claims by walking on islands and planting flags. Now it seems enough to establish a virtual presence through personal data — as if our avatars were enough to take possession of — of what? — an orbital arc made by a nano-satellite? The next step in our evolution: virtual conquests!”
Ashurbeyli, the founder of the Aerospace International Research Center (AIRC) and the self-declared “king of Asgardia”, says the satellite’s hard drive can hold the personal data of more than a million people, or
“space citizens. We have our territory in space.”
The Asgardia-1 is now aboard the International Space Station and next month, it will be rocketed into higher orbit where it can operate on its own.
Ashurbeyli said through his translator.
“Then we will celebrate. Eventually, we plan a moon base.”
But space law experts (there are space law experts?) like Mark Sundahl of the Global Space Law Center at Cleveland State University, are incredulous about Asgardia becoming a nation in space. A shoebox in space isn’t a territory, just like a ship in the sea isn’t a country.
“Asgardia appears to have been created to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. On the more positive side, Asgardia is a thought-provoking concept that has inspired many people to think about the future of humans in space.”
Sundahl says International space law already provides for the free use of outer space for the benefit of all mankind. The Outer Space Treaty (there’s an outer space treaty?) prohibits any nation from claiming territory on the moon.
Michael J. Listner of Space Law & Policy Solutions (another space lawyer?) says.
“A satellite cannot be a territory. It has as much legitimacy as the Principality of Sealand. The concern is how many other schemes Asgardia will inspire to further distract from legitimate private efforts to develop outer space.”
But nevertheless, Ashurbeyli plans to petition the United Nations for recognition as a sovereign nation next summer, with a constitution, a flag, an anthem, and parliamentary elections which are underway with some 144,000 supposed citizens from over 200 countries.
NanoRacks got paid for launching the shoebox-sixed dream. Their marketing director, Abby Dickes says,
“For us at NanoRacks, this is an exciting program where an entirely new group of people around the world are becoming excited about space exploration. We wish Asgardia mission success as they aim to realize their dreams.”
Yeah, as they say, good luck with that.
(Photo, renderings, Asgardia; via BuzzFeed News)