Mumbai: In the film Thor, the eponymous hammer-wielding god is exiled by his father Odin to live among mortals on Earth till he reforms. Thor’s father is the King of Asgard, which according to Norse mythology is considered to be one of the nine realms of gods.
A group of scientists and space experts based out of Russia, Romania, Canada and the US now want to make this myth a reality by offering Earthlings an opportunity to be part of a nation they have christened ‘Asgardia’.
Asgardia has over 450,000 registered members of the community, according to the self-proclaimed Father of Asgardia, Igor Ashurbeyli, who made this announcement at a 12 October press conference.
According to the statistics on the website, there are 11,098 applications from India till date. People from China have sent the most applications at 127,161, followed by the US with 53,441 and 42,752 from Turkey.
Registration on the Asgardia website (asgardia.space), founded by Ashurbeyli who is also a businessman, scientist and founder of the Aerospace International Research Center in Vienna, make you a part of the Asgardia community.
However, Asgardia is not offering official citizenship because it is yet to be officially recognized as a nation. Once you are a citizen, you will get a passport like in any country. In fact, the first registered Asgardian child is a boy called Michele from Italy. Anyone under 18 is welcome but needs parental consent, according to the website.
Asgardia, which touts itself as the first-ever space nation, has even announced its government structure. It is to be governed by a council of 12 ministers, which will be appointed for the first few months, until the first elections in June 2017. The ministries will include science, industry, space, youth and education, integration, information and communication, foreign affairs, trade and commerce, finance, safety and security, and justice.
The 12th ministry is to be chosen from among those suggested by the Asgardia community on the nation’s official Facebook page (facebook.com/asgardia.space/). Once enough people have expressed interest in obtaining Asgardian citizenship, Ashurbeyli plans on filing an appeal with the United Nations (UN) for official recognition of the first ever space nation.
Asgardia has been conceptualized as a “fully-fledged and independent nation, and a future member of the United Nations” with all the attributes this status entails: a government and embassies, a flag, a national anthem and insignia and the like.
The first Asgardians are expected to be those who work in the fields of space research and exploration, and space technology, as well as investors in these fields, including small investors.
The dampener is that even though Asgardia has plans to launch satellites and unite people from all over the world as the first space nation, it is not yet possible to just move everyone to space. “So, no, there are no plans to take Asgardians to space at this time,” the website says.
Asgardia’s technical structure comprises one or several core satellites; clusters of network-centric small satellites; and a protective space platform.
“We are not selling pieces of land on the Moon or water in Antarctica. We’re actually not selling anything at all at the moment. Only after we have proven this idea with a confirmed launch of an equipped satellite will we begin talking about Asgardia’s budgets,” the scientists say on the website. Currently, the project is bootstrapped even as the team plans to make use of crowd-funding and private donations.
Even as Asgardia continues to make news, Mars One—a not-for-profit foundation with the goal of establishing a permanent human settlement on Mars—is preparing its crews for a one-way journey to Mars starting in 2026; subsequent crews will depart every 26 months after the initial crew has left for Mars.
The technology comprises two rovers that will be sent to Mars to set up an outpost before the humans arrive. One of them will explore the surface of Mars in search of the most suitable location for the settlement, transport of large hardware components, and the general assembly.
All astronauts must wear their Mars suits when exposed to the Mars atmosphere. Like those used by the Apollo astronauts on the Moon, Mars suits protect astronauts from extreme temperatures and the very thin, non-breathable atmosphere.
The communications system will consist of two communications satellites and Earth ground stations. It will transmit data from Mars to Earth and back. The transit vehicle will consist of two propellant stages, a landing module, and a transit habitat. The landing module will be similar to the ones used for the unmanned Mars missions. The crew will travel through space for approximately seven or eight months. The water tanks and other storage will be used to create a radiation shelter that will also function as crew sleeping quarters.
Since Mars One’s (mars-one.com/) launch in 2011, about $1 million has been raised, mainly through donations, sales of merchandise, private investments, astronaut applications, sponsorships and partnerships, and speaking engagements. Mars One has plans to list on a stock exchange to enable supporters to ‘own’ part of the mission to Mars.
However, even as it remains a challenge to send autonomous rovers—defined as space-exploration vehicles that have been designed to move across the surface of a planet or any other celestial body—and robotic spacecraft to probe Mars for evidence of water and life, the bigger challenge is to fly humans in a spacecraft with the intention of settling down on the red planet or anywhere in space for that matter (bit.ly/2dHYoKX).
Living on Mars will certainly be no easy task for human beings who have to tackle major issues such as space radiation, dust storms, lower gravity pull that can weaken their bones, likely infection from unknown microbes, and the effect of loneliness on the human mind. Researchers are continually studying the effects on the human body in space (nasa.gov/hrp/about/).