In 1948, 13 years before a human had ever even been to space, James Mangan did something audacious. He tried to create a new nation – a nation in space! The Nation of Celestial Space may have started as a publicity stunt, but Mangan made sure it became more than that. He created coins, gave deeds of space to friends, and fought for his nation to be recognized by the UN. He even raised a fuss about its borders. According to him, satellites were trespassing. Mangan’s space nation was never recognized, but his ideas live on in a new space nation called Asgardia.
Igor Ashurbeyli is no stranger to space. He is an aerospace engineer with a long career in technology. He is also a billionaire. The Russian entrepreneur and rocket scientist is picking up where Mangan left off. And he’s bankrolling the project himself. He’s been dreaming of this since he was a kid. And he says this is not just a fantasy – he intends to do something very real.
Ashurbeyli founded his space nation in 2016, which he calls Asgardia. While the Nation of Celestial Space claimed all of space as its territory, Asgardia will only consist of habitable platforms in low-earth orbits. The first of these will be about the same distance from Earth as the International Space Station is now.
Within 40 hours of the project’s announcement in 2016, 100,000 people applied for citizenship. Within three weeks, that number rose to 500,000. Anyone over 18 can apply, but not all are accepted. There are now hundreds of thousands of citizens from hundreds of countries. Some are even applying for leadership positions. According to their constitution, their mission is to create permanent peace in space, equal opportunities for Asgardians, and to promote the welfare of humankind.
In November of 2017, Asgardia took its first steps. A small satellite called Asgardia-1 was launched into space. It contained data on about 18,000 of Asgardia’s citizens, as well as the nation’s flag and constitution. The goal of the satellite was to fulfill Ashurbeyli’s promise of bringing his citizens to space – albeit digitally.
Asgardia is currently trying to gain UN membership, but there are hurdles to jump along the way. They are in the process of creating their own government, which is one of the UN’s requirements. They also need a defined territory and a permanent population to be recognized by the UN. While they have yet to send anyone to space, the Asgardians seem undaunted. Only time will tell whether we are witnessing the birth of a nation or simply another flash in the pan.