Asgardia: A Space Nation

Sophia Akiva

On November 12th, 2016, the leader of the first space nation addressed their new citizens.

Perhaps this is how future historians will remember the rise of Asgardia, a pacifist nation located on an orbiting satellite and founded by Russian scientist and businessman Dr Igor Ashurbeiyli. There have already been over half a million applicants from around the world to become ‘Asgardians’ – inhabitants of this new nation. If the number of applicants continues to rise at the present rate, it will not be long before an appeal is filed with the United Nations by Dr Ashurbeiyli to officially recognise Asgardia as a member state.

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Image Credit: Wikimedia

The study of space, both deep and close-Earth, is one of the three main goals of this new nation, the other two being expanding humanity’s reach beyond our green world and a new legal platform along with the introduction of ’astropolitics’. The government structure of this soon-to-be formed country was revealed back in October and will be compiled of 12 ministries. 11 of these have already been decided upon; the last will be left open to debate.

The first of three core satellites are set to be launched in 2017, fully equipped and ready to welcome new inhabitants. This project has so far been funded by Dr Ashurbeiyli, with additional capital from crowd sourcing and private investment. These investors will be the first to receive citizenship, together with scientists working in fields of space research, exploration and technology.

However, there are many problems facing an endeavour of this magnitude. The first is the immense cost associated with space exploration. Dr Ashurbeiyli has avoided discussing Asgardia’s budget so far and no solid financial plan has been outlined yet.

The scientific equipment needed to carry out such a study will require a constant source of energy, as will the maintenance of good living conditions for the residents. This is the second major issue facing a space state. Such a problem can be overcome by taking inspiration from the International Space Station, which is powered by 27,000 square feet of solar arrays. These panels are rotated by gimbals towards the Sun and can generate up to 120 kilowatts of power, which is either used by the equipment on board or stored in batteries for future use. Solar energy is ideal for a satellite as it has no by-products, is generously available above the atmosphere, and does not need to be transported from Earth. The solar-arrays themselves can fold up for take-off and expand once the satellite is safely in orbit.

As the population of this space nation grows, there will be an increased demand for food. Earlier this year, a zinnia flower was successfully grown aboard the International Space Station. An accompanying guide to gardening in microgravity was produced, showing our rapidly increasing understanding of what it takes to grow food in space. With such advancements being made, many are confident that citizens of Asgardia will not be without a solid and nutritious supply of food.

But what about other aspects of their health? Physical strength, endurance and a strong constitution are needed to withstand the forces acting on a space shuttle as it’s taking off. In addition, there are many risks associated with living in microgravity for a prolonged length of time. Even with regular exercise, astronauts can experience bone and muscle weakness, disturbances in heart rhythm and problems with both cardiovascular and nervous systems. Above the protective shield of our atmosphere, there is a much greater exposure to radiation which can lead to several health problems, such as cancer. Fortunately, these issues are currently being studied and with further research, these risks could be reduced. In any case, the early settlers of any space nation would have to pass rigorous fitness tests and physical training, much like the astronauts of today.

Despite the numerous problems facing the future residents of outer space, we must not lose heart. The field of space exploration is a growing one, with increasing public interest and a rising flow of investment. Because of this, more and more research can be undertaken and our understanding of the world beyond our own will continue to improve.  We can hope that it will not be long before humanity will walk among the stars.