Igor Ashurbeyli is the Azeri-Russian tycoon behind Asgardia, a project launched three years ago to establish “permanent peace in space”. In 2017, the group sent a satellite – Asgardia-1 – into low-Earth orbit and declared sovereignty over the space it occupies. The outlandish ambitions do not cease there, but “Head of Nation” Dr Ashurbeyli has sought to prove this is more than just a sci-fi fantasy.
Earlier this year, Asgardia unveiled plans to build a fleet of “cosmic Noah’s arks” orbiting the Earth, at a cost of roughly £100billion a piece for its micro-nation.
Former Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik was elected as the chairman of the Parliament of Asgardia during its first session in Vienna, Austria.
He is part of a British core involved in the project, that also includes Tory Brexiteer Nigel Evans who chairs the Asgardian parliament’s foreign affairs committee, and Philip Appleby, a former Ministry of Defence official and police officer who has been appointed Minister of Safety and Security.Mr Opik told iweekend: “Lots people are building rockets, Asgardia is about building the society to go with them.
Igor Ashurbeyli wants to conquer space
The company wants to create a space nation
Lots people are building rockets, Asgardia is about building the society to go with them
“At some point in the future, ordinary people are going to have to inhabit space and we are not going to build a social infrastructure from mission control.
“It has to be built by consent – painstakingly and comprehensively.
“We have to decide the rules and methods on everything from burials to taxation, from marriage to procreation.
“My political back catalogue tells you that I’m no stranger to dealing with the unexpected, it has never bothered me to be on the far side of convention and target for suspicion of derision.
“We are getting some big names from science and commerce and it creates a virtuous circle – the more people take us seriously, the more serious it will get.”
Thousands have signed up for the idea
Asgardia says it will be sustained by charging its first seven million “primary Asgardians” €1,000 (£900) for formal citizenship and a passport and seeking a further €1billion (£90million) each from seven unnamed “primary investors”.
The resulting income, will provide a €15billion (£13.4billion) war chest for Asgardia to invest in research and the building of its institutions.
These finances are tied-up in its own cryptocurrency – the Solar – which began test purchasing this month.
In October, the organisation will host a three-day science conference in Germany attended by senior figures from City investment houses, universities including MIT, executives from organisations such as British defence contractor QinetiQ and former NASA employees.
The ultimate goal is to recruit 150 million Asgardian, of whom 15m will be residents in space and beyond.
Asgardia wants space pods to inhabit the cosmos
The vision is to send 15 million to space
The company envisages a permanent settlement on the Moon by 2043 to ensure humanity would survive events such as a cataclysmic asteroid impact.
Mr Opik added: “History shows that there has to be pioneers.
“When the Wright Brothers first flew, no-one really knew where their invention would go.
“Now we sit in the back of a jumbo jet with a gin and tonic watching a film.
“Humanity’s survival depends on our presence in space.
Nigel Evans backs the idea
Former Liberal Democrat Lembit Opik was elected as the chairman of the Parliament of Asgardia
“To paraphrase Stephen Hawking, we either travel or die.”
However, the company does face a legal minefield
The issue of extraterrestrial sovereignty and administration has long been a subject for legal debate.
The Outer Space Treaty was first signed by the US, UK and the Soviet Union on January 27, 1967, at the height of the Cold War and Space Race.
As of June 2019, 109 countries are parties to the treaty, while another 23 have signed the treaty but have not completed ratification.
Article II of the treaty states that “outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.”
Igor Ashurbeyli a Azeri-Russian national
Article VI adds: “The activities of non-governmental entities in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, shall require authorisation and continuing supervision by the appropriate State Party to the Treaty and that States Parties shall bear international responsibility for national space activities whether carried out by governmental or non-governmental entities.
Frans Von Der Dunk, professor of space law at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln delivered a damning verdict to Dr Ashurbeyli’s dreams.
He told iweekend: “At least, at first sight, this is basically about a billionaire living out his fantasies to be emperor, king or president in outer space.
“As such, it does not bring the human settlement of outer space any nearer.
“We should not allow the very valuable asset of outer space, the province of all mankind to be used for a billionaire’s fun if there is not at least also some broader public benefit to be drawn from that.”
Lena De Winne, a former European Space Agency (ESA) scientist and now “minister for information” at Asgardia says the company is aware of the battles ahead.
She said in July: “Just as big, if not bigger, are matters of governance.
“At its simplest, space must not become a new arena for conflict between nations competing to exercise sovereign power over the rest of the solar system.
“That is the danger as – much like the colonial wars of expansion and conquest of the 19th Century – the major powers fight for dominance.
“True, the 1967 Outer Space Treaty prevents terrestrial powers claiming sovereignty over celestial bodies such as the moon and also outlaws the stationing of nuclear weapons on such platforms.
“It also insists that the exploration of outer space must be to the benefit of all nations.”
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