Science

Scientist hopes to create peaceful nation in space

Looks like Elon Musk has some competition.

By Hugh Doyle

A Russian scientist has announced his concept for a space nation called Asgardia this month. Igor Ashurbeyli, a scientist and businessman, revealed his plans in a press conference this month.

The aim of the project is “Peace in Space”, Ashurbeyli’s philosophy that Earth’s conflicts should not transfer to Space. He plans to do this by creating a global community of ‘Asgardians’ who will be legally recognised citizens of a satellite orbiting the earth and will help defend Space from the “geopolitical struggles” that Ashurbeyli believes have plagued Earth. Applications to become an ‘Asgardian’ are open to anyone in the world over the age of 16 and all that is required is a preliminary application on Asgardia’s website. At the time of writing of this article, 374,194 people have applied to become ‘Asgardians’.

Despite the large number of people applying, the technology to launch this project has not yet been finalized. Ashurbeyli said at the press conference that “We are not going to talk about technical aspects and details today. It is not because we have nothing to say. It is because we want the widest participation in this open project”. To do this, he is inviting any scientists with ideas on how to execute the concept to join his project and potentially become the first set of ‘Asgardians’. Despite the lack of exact technology Ashurbeyli did reveal what he believes to be the basic technical structure revealing on the website that it would consist of “one or several core satellites, clusters of network-centric small satellites [and a] protective space platform”.

However, before filling out those application forms, know that Asgardia faces a significant challenge legally. Since it’s seeking sovereignty, it is breaking a clause of the Outer Space Treaty, which forms the basis of international space law. The clause broken says “outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means”. Ashurbeyli however at the conference did say that he wants to create a “new judicial reality in space” adding “‘universal space law’ and ‘astropolitics’ have to replace international space law” due to the bias towards a select number of countries. However, this would still prove an issue when seeking sovereignty from the UN who govern the Outer Space Treaty.

Furthermore, experts such as Professor Sa’id Mosteshar of the London Institute of Space Policy and Law said to the BBC that in addition to the legal issues, Asgardia faces financial issues with the fact that those involved “don’t have any real credible business plan”. Despite this, Ashurbeyli believes that he will able to source funding from a mixture of crowdfunding and private investment but says at the moment he is unveiling his concept and philosophy rather than a business plan.

With the first satellite launch scheduled for 2017 or 2018, Ashurbeyli faces an uphill battle to achieve his goal of Asgardia due to the legal challenges and lack of current investment – as have many scientific revelations. But, who knows? Maybe we’ll all be Asgardians one day.

Image credit: GMP Core Observatory

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