No, this is not a joke. Virtual nation Asgardia is journeying to space and is taking over 300,000 citizens for the ride. The entire nation of Asgardia is housed on this satellite. (Photo from Asgardia)

 

First there was the robot citizen in Saudi Arabia, now comes a virtual nation launched into space. No, it’s not an article from The Onion, this is actually happening. Asgardia is the virtual nation created by Russian scientist Igor Ashurbeyli. He started the nation last year and so far, it has over 300,000 registrants. During its short time of existence, Asgardia has created a constitution and even launched itself into space.

 

The “space kingdom” sent itself into space aboard the Asgardia-1 satellite. From there, it was boarded on the Cygnus spacecraft and launched by the Orbital ATK Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. Before Cygnus detaches and heads for a higher altitude where the satellite can be deployed, Asgardia will have to wait at ISS for a month. Since this is a virtual nation, Asgardia is just a file server about the size of a loaf of bread that contains their constitution, national symbols, and selected data from each of its citizens.

 

How do you become a citizen anyway? All it takes is filling out an online application and agreeing to the terms of the constitution. And what’s the goal here? According to Ashurbeyli Asgardia “will be our foundation stone, from which we will look to create a network of satellites that will help protect our planet against asteroids, solar flares, manmade space debris and other space hazards.”

 

As you can guess, reactions to this news has been mixed. Most find the whole thing ridiculous, while others point out claiming a territory in space may conflict with existing law. Director of the London Institute of Space Policy and Law Professor Sa’id Mosteshar says The Outer Space Treaty states no part of space can be claimed by any state.

 

No matter how outrageous it sounds, Ashurbeyli is quite serious about Asgardia. Apparently, his next step is going to Washington DC to discuss becoming a full, UN endorsed nation with policy experts. Along with this, parliamentary elections are underway for Asgardian citizens as well as passports and national IDs in the works.

 

Even after learning about Asgardia and seeing how serious Ashurbeyli is about it, it still sounds weird. Is this actually happening or is this part of an elaborate prank? Do the citizens of Asgardia really think they can “protect Earth from Space threats” as they mention in their FAQ on their official site? Guess we’ll have to wait and see how this plays out.