By Mark G. McLaughlin
Asgardia is a nation like no other – or at least its hundreds of thousands of adherents around the world intend it to be. Asgardians seek recognition of themselves and the vehicles and objects they launch into space as part of a sovereign nation, and one beholden to no government on earth. In Norse mythology, Asgard is the home of the gods; in particular the wise and peaceful Aesir, who watch over and guide humanity. Asgardians in some ways hope to emulate that, by founding a nation in space (and perhaps someday in colonies on other worlds) devoted to peace, science and the advancement of humanity. The trick is getting the United Nations and the governments of more than 200 existing countries to agree to and recognize that claim.
A Nation that Seeks to Go Boldly Where None Have Gone Before
By definition, a nation is a large group of people of shared language, culture, history or descent who live in or claim a territory. For Asgardia, the “First Space Nation,” as its members hail it, that territory is quite literally not of this earth. They do not seek to lay claim to space itself or any celestial bodies in space – as international law and treaties prohibit that – but seek recognition of sovereignty over any spacecraft they launch, including any that are habitable. Asgardia is not yet recognized as a nation by any government, but with more than 200,000 people from all over the world have signed on as “citizens,” it has a population greater than that of more than 40 of the world’s 200-plus nation states.
A State Under Construction
Asgardia has or is building many of the institutions and trappings of a traditional nation-state. Its supporters date Oct. 12, 2016, as its founding. They drafted a constitution that has been in effect since September 2017. A parliament is in the process of being formed, and its chairman, Lembit Opik, and other members met in Istanbul in July. They have chosen a government with a head of state, prime minister and other ranking officials. The administrative center for what is (for now) the “Space Kingdom of Asgardia” occupies physical office space in Vienna. Billionaire Russian scientist Igor Ashurbeyli, the founder of Aerospace International Research Center, is its current leader. More than half a million people from all over the world have applied for citizenship, but as Asgardia is serious about becoming a sovereign entity and not merely a movement; it has established a set of criteria that applicants must meet in order to become citizens. One of the principal requirements is to acknowledge Ashurbeyli as head of state, although the constitution requires that democratic elections for that and other offices be held in the near future.
The Struggle for Recognition as a Nation
Asgardia intends to petition the United Nations for recognition as a nation. As its citizens are drawn from scores of existing nations and meet none of the criteria established by the U.N. or even the dictionary for a nation, recognition is doubtful – but not impossible. The Outer Space Treaty, moreover, states that no state may appropriate any part of outer space as its own. As for territory, which is the single key stumbling block that must be overcome by any prospective nation, Asgardia to date has only a single object in space: an uninhabitable satellite named appropriately Asgardia-1. It was launched last November on a five-year mission. The satellite and the data it is collecting, however, are governed and regulated by U.S. law, as many American companies and NASA are involved in the otherwise privately-funded project. Asgardians plan on sending up additional satellites over the next two years and, in the future, to send out what they describe as “space arks” to establish colonies first in space and eventually on the moon and other planets.
“One Humanity, One Unity”
With its motto of “One Humanity, One Unity,” Asgardia is a unique entity, even if its legal status and recognition as a nation is still in question. Its stated goal is to ensure the demilitarization and peaceful use of space, to protect the earth from asteroids and other space-borne objects, and to promote the peaceful exploration of space, all for the good not of any one earthly nation, but of all humanity. In that utopian aspiration, however, lies Asgardia’s appeal and its best chance of being recognized.