It seems like science fiction...Wait. It IS science fiction, that may well become science fact!
Asgardia is the name of a new proposed country that will be the first to exist outside the confines of Earth's gravity, the first nation of humans in space. At least, that is the hope of the group of scientists and space experts who have proposed the Asgardia Project.
What is their goal? Simple. They want to mine asteroids and build a shield around the Earth to protect it from cosmic and manmade debris. They also want to create a space colony where people can live and carry out their lives in a place where others hold their common interests. According to Asgardia's website, "Asgardia is the prototype of a free and unrestricted society which holds knowledge, intelligence and science at its core along with the recognition of the ultimate value of each human life."
Asgardia's goal is to become a free nation, part of the United Nations, and has a goal of launching their first satellite into orbit within the next 18 months, to coincide with the 60th anniversary of Sputnik. However, they haven't released any specifics to explain how they plan to accomplish any of these goals, nor will they state who exactly is involved beyond about 5 or 6 people, how they plan to fund such a venture (which would cost billions of dollars to create and maintain), or how they plan on making their idea of a nation into a reality without breaking international space treaties, etc.
"By creating a new Space Nation, private enterprise, innovation and the further development of space technology to support humanity will flourish free from the tight restrictions of state control that currently exist," the project said in a press statement. The nation will supposedly crowdsource everything from its flag to its funding to its laws.
Lots of vagueness here, with the people of the project unwilling to share any information about funding, project development, etc. But the biggest questions I have are about its actual status as a nation, how it plans to actually BECOME a nation without having physical borders, how people can have dual citizenship if they live in the US right now, and how EXACTLY they plan on changing the current laws of the Outer Space Treaty. Right now, what Asgardia is asking for can't be done under the laws of that treaty. The Asgardia Project seems to be looking to have those laws completely rewritten so they can launch objects as their own nation that doesn't exist on Earth.
Another part of this whole thing I have a problem with is the "protecting the entire Earth from the dangers of space." Step one to world domination, anyone? What gives them the right to build any sort of shield around the Earth to protect all humanity? No one nation has the right to rule over all others in that way. Remember: Protecting is the same thing as governing. We've seen these movies before. Once you are under someone's protection, they control you. If they have the capability to form a shield around the Earth to keep things OUT, this also means they have the capabilities to keep things IN. They could potentially, if allowed to have their way (which I seriously doubt will happen for many reasons), prevent people from launching into orbit if they decided to. They could decide who was good enough to be in space, and who was not. Who is to say what exactly a "threat to life on earth" is? Let's think about all the movies that have been made about protecting humankind from themselves....IT NEVER ENDS WELL.
Another issue is that we have a group of people who must be intelligent, since science is at their core (and they state this right on their website), and who must be rich, since they will need to have funds to get to space (currently, the cheapest ride into orbit is the Falcon 9, which runs $65 billion a pop). Seems a little elitist. What about those who weren't lucky enough to have good educations, who aren't from the best of socioeconomic statuses? It's easy to say that this nation is a place where people can be equal and free, but in order to actually GET there, clearly some must be more equal than others before they start. So there will be a nation of ultra smart and rich people in orbit around the Earth, "protecting" us from threats, who are outside the bounds of international space law, and....
From their website:
"Asgardia - named in honour of an ancient mythological city in the skies - will offer an independent platform free from the constraint of a land-based country’s laws. It will become a place it in orbit which is truly ‘no man's land’."
Again, if--and that's a HUGE if, because I don't see this ever happening--this ever gets off the ground, both literally and figuratively, this is a big thing. "Free from constraint of a land-based country's laws," with crowdsourced laws themselves, what if a whole bunch of people there vote to nuke anyone who doesn't agree with them, or who wants to, say, launch their own orbital nation?
In order for Asgardia to become a part of the United Nations, as they say they plan to do, they will need to answer not just these simple questions, but a lot of way more complex ones. Not to mention the UN would have to rewrite so many laws that govern what defines a state, how orbital space is governed, how liability is assigned in space, etc., that we have something that could hardly be touched fifty years from now. Asgardia is being notably closed-mouthed about every aspect of their project, it's easy to ask, "Do THEY even know what they are doing?" But perhaps, even more disturbingly, they DO know what they are doing.
I love science and space, and would LOVE to be optimistic about this project, I truly would. There is nothing I would love more than to live in a Star Trek like world, where there is peace and prosperity on Earth, and we can look outward to the stars. But there are just way too many unanswered questions and too much laconicism from Asgardia themselves to feel very much confidence about this venture.
If anyone from Asgardia would like to talk with me and get me to change my mind, I'm all ears. But if they choose to divulge any information to me, I'd be the first.
Melanie R. Meadors is an author and editor of science fiction and fantasy, blogger at The Once and Future Podcast, and a professional author publicist. She studied physics and astronomy at Northern Arizona University, where no day was complete without a heated debate over relativity versus quantum mechanics. You can find her at her website, melaniermeadors.com, on Facebook, and Twitter, @melaniermeadors.