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A rendering of Asgardia-1.


Asgardia

An odd but intriguing experiment in technology, diplomacy, governance and space exploration, among other things, has officially begun its journey.

After being delayed one day, an Orbital ATK Antares rocket carrying a cubesat named Asgardia-1 launched from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia early Sunday. The milk carton-sized satellite makes up the entirety of territory of the self-proclaimed “Space Kingdom” of Asgardia.

“Asgardia space kingdom has now established its sovereign territory in space,” read an online statement.

Over 300,000 people signed up online to become “citizens” of the nation over the last year. The main privilege of citizenship so far involves the right to upload data to Asgardia-1 for safekeeping in orbit, seemingly far away from the pesky governments and laws of Earth-bound countries.

But if you really dig down into Asgardia’s terms and conditions, you’ll find that those privileges are still subject to earthly copyright laws — they’re set up under the laws of Austria.

As of now, Asgardia’s statehood isn’t acknowledged by any other actual countries or the United Nations, and it doesn’t really even fit the definition of a nation since it’s not possible for a human to physically live in Asgardia.

Not yet, at least. The long-term vision for Asgardia includes human settlements in space, on the moon and perhaps even more distant colonies.

For now, though, Asgardia is a tiny satellite inside a Cygnus spacecraft set to dock with the International Space Station Tuesday morning. There, Asgardia-1 will patiently wait while Orbital ATK completes its primary mission to resupply the ISS.

After about a month, the Cygnus will detach and climb to a higher altitude where the nation-in-a-box will be deployed into orbit.

We’ll see if the activation of Asgardia-1 heralds the beginning of a new era of extra-planetary citizenship, or if it slowly fades into obscurity with each trip around our planet and its nearly 200 more conventional nations.

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