My Journey To Asgardia - The World’s First Space Nation In Vienna
You may not have heard of Asgardia before now… Allow me to introduce you to the crypto-funded nation that wants to colonise the moon in 25 years.
Recently, as you may have seen on my Instagram, I received an incredible opportunity - heading over to Vienna, to cover the inauguration of an Asgardian head of nation. In terms of the specific editorial detail, I will leave that to the feature article I wrote for BBC Science Focus.
This will be more of a diary of events, a personal behind-the-scenes feature of this writer’s experience, an actual blog (because this is a blog after all)!
But for context, allow me to introduce you to the group I travelled out to talk to.
What is Asgardia?
In a few words, it is a nation of people who want to live in space.
More words than that, Asgardia is the logical next step for humanity, ripped straight from the pages of *Insert science fiction space habitat here.* Started in October 2016 by aerospace scientist Igor Ashurveyli, they plan to continue the drive to quench the human thirst for exploration by being the first people living permanently in orbit and on the moon - not just for the scientific significance, but to shape the future of space law.
Given many nations are already looking to space habitation, it’s fair to fear they may treat space in the same, territorial warfare-based way they’ve treated Earth. So to stop the stars being another opportunity for war, Asgardia plan to get out there first and in their own words, “ensure a peaceful use of space.”
They’ve gone to every effort to be certified as a legitimate nation, from the creation of a flag and currency, to the writing of a constitution and establishment of a parliament. But I won’t dive into anymore detail, as that’s what the feature is for. I will just dive into…
Pictures from the big day. Credit: Alexandr Omelianchuk/Asgardia
I arrive at Birmingham airport amidst the sea of celebrations after England handed Panama a bloody good pasting in the 2018 World Cup. Settling down to watch the remainder of the game, research begins into more specifics of Asgardia - in particular the people behind it.
The personnel make-up of the parliament just seemed bizarre to me on first glance, with a wide array of nationalities and experience types - former liberal democrats and tories working together with Russian specialists and American war veterans. Not from a closed-minded perspective. A think tank like that can be capable of a lot. Just surprised it actually seems to work!
One flight later and I’m in Vienna, taken by town car to the Pyramide hotel on the city’s outskirts. Of course, my first missions were obvious given I am a typically British tourist - scope any hotel freebies and head straight to the bar.
It was here that I began to not only meet new people, but really start to understand the nitty gritty of this story and find out some more interesting tidbits.
Two people crucial to the discovery of curiosities that lay behind the nicely-worded press releases would be Suzie Lechtenberg and Latin Nasser of NPR’s Radiolab fame. If you haven’t listened to their work yet, you really should! Absolute pleasure to meet them both out there and hear about what they have planned for this Asgardia episode.
Going on a fact-finding mission myself, I found out a fair few war veterans have signed up for Asgardian citizenship. I’m unaware of any correlation and all reasons for joining were different between individuals. However, it led to an increased level of camrarderie between not just the veterans of allied nations, but those of countries on opposite sides of wars.
These connecting moments were amazing to see, which became quickly fuelled by alcohol as the night continued… Once 2am had rolled around and the history lessons had all but dried up, I retired to bed.
Fast forward to next morning and one shuttle later to Hofburg Palace, I found myself in a moment similar to my arrival in Las Vegas for CES 2017 - one of sheer impostor syndrome. New Rising Media is just a blog and a niche one at that, surely I don’t deserve to be here amongst the bigwigs of international press?
However, I pressed on (after getting a picture outside the palace of course) and got ready for the main event, which as you could see from the video below was equal parts great and rather bizarre.
Leaving the ceremony with more questions than answers, I was quick to grab my voice recorder and interview every Asgardian parliament member I could find for more info - main questions being “how are you doing to do this” and “how are you going to pay for it?” And it’s at this point, I must put a disclaimer in for the rest of this blog.
For those of you expecting deep analysis into the science behind this plan, I’m afraid you will be disappointed.
One fact became rapidly apparent… This is not a science story. It is a political story - but before you glaze over, that in itself is quite a fascinating story to tell.
For you see, this brings up questions people have never thought about for. Suddenly, brains are engaged around what intergalactic politics should look like. Personally, I can only wish we don’t fall into the conglomerate cacophony that was the Galactic Republic of Star Wars lore.
Not much in-depth is known about the politics, as nobody was willing to go on record about the parliamentary sessions that happened behind closed doors. But opinions were generally positive about the political individualism showed in these meetings. No party lines were drawn and nobody made decisions purely to inflate their own ego and position of control. Whether this continues remains to be seen.
My own pictures from the journey. Credit: me.
The ceremony was followed by a classical music concert and dinner with other members of the press, which turned into a nice little networking event. As a chance to express my inner music nerd, I love watching orchestras live - kind of like watching the individual elements of an engine. At this dinner, too, I was given a commemorative coin, to make things feel a little more official. Shortly after, it was a short minibus journey back to the hotel. Feeling supremely thankful to change out of my suit and back into shorts given the insane temperature, I was quick back to the bar for World Cup fixtures and a final chance to socialise with Asgardian citizens.
Beyond this, nothing more happened - except for a journey home accompanied by a long layover in Dusseldorf and a ridiculously overcrowded train back to Nottingham.
All-in-all, it was an interesting experience to say the least! In this short space of time, I had been given a crash course on Asgardian culture, its citizens and their beliefs. From the relentless attempts to recruit me as an Asgardian, to the sense of pride everyone visibly expressed when holding their inauguration commemorative coins, the commitment to this project is greatly apparent.
I approached this story with cautious optimism, and I left with that same gut feeling, which I hope comes across in my story. One thing is for sure - whether this project succeeds or fails, Asgardia will certainly leave its mark on both the wider world for their fresh approach to scientific progress and political diplomacy.
As they say: “One humanity. One unity.”